Well, it’s that time of year again: USC Students are slowly trickling back to campus for the fall semster and the University Bookstore has restocked all things cardinal and gold. This can only mean one thing—football season is upon us!
It’s time for the Trojans to once again put it all on the line and show why we run the Pac-10, er…Pac-12. Last season the Trojans fell short of expectations, but with the tumultuous offseason the team faced, it’s really no surprise. 8-5 for some teams is a good, maybe even great record—not so for the Trojans. The team is definitely entering this season with a Traveler-sized chip on its shoulders.
Because the NCAA upheld its ruling against USC, the Trojans will be ineligible to compete in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game, which they likely would qualify for.
Outside of that, the Trojans also have a reputation to reestablish after embarrassing back-to-back losses by a field goal to Washington and Stanford, getting destroyed by Oregon for the second year in a row, an unusually sloppy defeat by Oregon State and an I-don’t-even-want-to-talk-about-it loss to Notre Dame.
If we continue to lose to teams that we’ve steamrolled in the past decade, we risk losing our status as a perennial powerhouse. This could negatively impact recruiting with the new additions to the conference and the continued emergence of Stanford and Oregon.
The Trojans will indeed have their work cut out for them, but if quarterback Matt Barkley can utilize all of the offensive weapons he has: Bilitnekoff award prospect and all-world receiver Robert Woods (as well as all the other receivers he can throw to), a talented running back corps that looks to be second only to Oregon in terms of raw talent, and a few incoming freshman that are poised to make an immediate impact—then Trojan fans can expect big things this season.
The Trojan defense—which struggled to adjust to Monte Kiffin’s system—has had a year to work the kinks out and condition themselves to the demands of one of the most versatile defenses to be implemented on any level. Fans can look forward to a more experienced secondary, led by cornerback Nickell Robey and safety TJ McDonald, to bring back the hard-hitting big plays that we’ve all missed.
At the outset, it looks as if Arizona State has emerged as a potential dark horse to win the Pac-12 title, either by default or outright. USC will have to bring it’s A-game to burn out linebacker Vontaze Burfict as well as the Sun Devils’ potent secondary. Pac-12 newcomer Utah also could be a threat to USC, but since Urban Meyer left the school to create a dynasty at Florida, the Utes have struggled against upper echelon BCS opponents.
UCLA is still UCLA, so no challenge there, and Colorado has never beaten the Trojans in school history. USC also faces out of conference opponents Syracuse and Minnesota, but they simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with a squad with the capabilities of USC. Arizona might give the Trojans some trouble because they have a fantastic signal-caller and potential first round pick in Nick Foles, but historically the Trojans have always faired well against the Wildcats.
Washington has beaten ‘SC on a fluke last-minute field goal two years in a row now, but with quarterback Jake Locker now calling shots as a Tennessee Titan, their offense will not be as potent. USC could upstage the Huskies in the Coliseum this season.
Stanford does have one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 and the consensus No. 1 pick for the 2012 NFL Draft. However, USC has a good chance of beating the Cardinal if our defense can step up in big pass situations, which is what killed us last season. We’re helped greatly by the departure of Jim Harbaurgh and 3/5ths of the Stanford offensive line, which created the time that Luck enjoyed in the pocket last year.
The Oregon Ducks will undoubtedly be the Trojans’ toughest match up, and if the Trojans cannot find a way to shut down The Blur for four full quarters—at Oregon nonetheless—the Trojans will once again fall to the Ducks.
The Trojans also will travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame, and after last season’s embarrassing loss the Irish believe that they have what it takes to beat USC.
What they fail to remember is that former 5-star prospect Barkley didn’t play in the game at all, and the offense suffered tremendously under Mitch Mustain’s direction. If Barkley can come into and finish this game strong—which he struggled to do towards the latter half of the season—then the Trojans have a good chance of winning this rivalry game.
And soon enough it will be time to don to cardinal and gold gear, kick the flag pole for luck, file into the Coliseum, throw up the Fight On, and kick off what will hopefully be a USC-Caliber season.