Media’s Expectations of USC Football Superiority a Danger to Trojans’ Success


C&G Shades On is a special weekly column from Sara Kakuris, bringing a die-hard USC football fan’s voice and perspective to Reign of Troy.

I still have the 2012 “Man of Troy” Sports Illustrated, featuring Matt Barkley and the tagline that states, “He didn’t stay to play in the Holiday Bowl.”

I remember the moment when I realized that was truer than the magazine had thought – he didn’t play in the Holiday Bowl, that’s for sure.

I’ve long argued that the celebritization of college football players can lead to a crushing lack of professional success. Matt Leinart is a perfect example, but that’s for another column. But what effect does out-of-this-universe expectation do to a team as a whole?

This offseason, everyone from ESPN to Las Vegas has put USC in the playoffs. Just last week, ESPN posted a detailed article on why the Trojans have an extremely good chance of winning it all at the end.

If almost any other team went 9-4, even printing the word “playoff” next to their name would be laughable. Yes, USC has some great returners and recruits with amazing potential, but out of all the Division 1 teams, we’re looked at as one of the top four?

November 22, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian watches game action against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When other teams have an average season, they’re not denigrated to pieces, because the expectation of them being greater was never there. Just off the top of my head, let’s use…UCLA as an example. They went 10-3 in the 2014-2015 season. Nobody has them in this year’s playoffs and certainly not winning the Championship.

If they go 9-4 this season, or even 8-5, nobody will blink. It won’t make national news. ESPN pundits won’t be analyzing them day after day. Their players won’t be ridiculed. Their coach won’t be burned at the stake.

It is the expectation of grandeur that can shatter the knees of a team.

If the Trojans go 9-4 this season, or even 10-3, it will be viewed as a failure. USC will be a top story on every sports newscast. ESPN’s fickle affection towards us will turn back to loathing (Clown School, anyone?). Our players will be taken apart piece by piece, to the point of affecting their draft stock. Sark will be given a year more at best.

If, at the end of all of this, we walk out with that trophy, I will be the happiest girl on earth. But it is, yes I will say it, outright unfair that anything less than that will be a black mark against USC.

There are so many benchmarks between failure and the National Championship for us. Let’s beat ASU! Let’s shut up UCLA! Let’s finally play in our first Pac-12 Championship! Let’s WIN our first Pac-12 Championship!

To me, those are reasonable expectations and things of which to be proud.

Even Cody Kessler warned last week against making this a repeat of 2012. He knows the danger of a team getting too far ahead of itself.

The media needs to lay off. We’re not falling for it anymore. We’ve seen you love us and we’ve seen you hate us. There’s rarely an in-between when it comes to USC.

Let us be. Let our season be what we make it, not what your slow news day makes it.

This season is a forest full of trees and we need to see them all.

I welcome hearing your thoughts and any future ideas you’d like to see in a column. Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @SCTrojanSara and tweet me any time.

See you next week and Fight On!

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