This is the first installment of our weekly Mailbag Monday segment, featuring the Reign of Troy Mailbag. We’ve been prompting our readers for the past couple of weeks, and here’s some mailbag questions to get the party started, all on the Pac-12 conference.
1. With the changes that Stanford’s had with its offense and Darron Thomas leaving early, who is going to be USC’s toughest opponent? (Steve from Glendale, CA)
Without Andrew Luck and his top targets, the Cardinal will surely regress. How much? We probably won’t know until the Trojans go up to Palo Alto on September 15th. The Ducks will have to replace Thomas, but you can’t let that be a reason to underestimate them due to their history of replacing quarterbacks with guys you’ve never heard of, yet are perfect for their system. Jeremiah Masoli came out of nowhere in 2009 after Nick Costa was supposed to be the guy for the Ducks, and yet after Masoli’s legal troubles, Darron Thomas took the Ducsk to the title game in his first year. They’ll be just as good as advertised come September, especially with Kenjon Barner returning and De’Anthony Thomas playing with a year of experience under his belt, making the Ducks still the team to beat in the Pac-12. Now, outside of the Ducks and Cardinal, the Washington Huskies are a team to be concerned with.
2. How immediate of an impact will the presence of Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach in the Pac-12 have on USC’s ability to succeed? (Jaime from Encinitas, CA)
Both Rich Rod and Leach will have a learning curve, but Leach’s will be shorter due to his style of play which is more determinant on the play calling rather than the personnel. As we saw with Rodriguez’s stint at Michigan, it will take him time to get spread-option-type athletes at Arizona. While having Arizona compete for top talent could be a deterrent to SC in theory, that might not be the case given the differences in scheme between Rodriguez and Kiffin. USC hasn’t been in a recruiting tussle over a quarterback with the Oregon Ducks due to the spread offense’s need in speed, and should Arizona become what RichRod wants to turn them into, Arizona and Oregon will compete head-to-head for the best athletes in the West, while Stanford and Cal should continue to compete for the top pro-style talent that USC desires. You could say that recruiting wise, having Rich Rod in the Pac-12 might aid the Trojans’ ability to succeed in the conference, as U of A becomes another mouth to be fed. It’s going to be awfully fun looking at the recruiting battles for the next several years, should Rich Rod, Leach, Mora, Kiffin and Kelly stay in the Pac-12.
3. USC has a history of faltering in cold weather, are you worried about the trip to Utah on a Thursday night? Should SC sleep on Utah? (Dorian from Vacaville, CA)
Going into Utah is a dangerous game, period. Make it a Thursday night on national TV, which everyone watching as Utah hosts arguably the biggest home game in the history of Rice-Eccles Stadium, and it becomes an enormous trap game for the Trojans. How many times have we seen the underdog win at home on ESPN in a midweek game? A lot. Baylor kicked off the season last year with a win against TCU and everyone knows what Oregon State did in 2008 against Mark Sanchez’s Trojans. Weather really shouldn’t play a factor, with temperatures being pretty similar to what USC encountered at AT&T Park last year on a Thursday trip to San Francisco to face Cal. It’ll be chilly and far from the icy conditions that say the Trojans pick about Colorado in Boulder last November. Now, that the Trojans do have to be concerned about, is that the Utes have the best fans in the conference and will be more than ready to make it a raucous night in Salt Lake. If the Trojans sleep on the Utes, they’ll deserve any outcome that comes as a result of that, because Utah is dangerous, especially if Jordan Wynn is healthy.