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1st & 10:
First Take… It’s time to take the Pac-12 North seriously.
Though USC has suffered three losses already this season, one of the common refrains after said losses from Trojan players was that they did not matter as much in the grand scheme of things. Notre Dame was out of conference, while Stanford and Washington play in the North division, keeping USC’s quest for tie breaking advantages in the South intact.
That’s a definite silver lining to take from the troublesome start to the season, but caveats, or excuses, like that no longer apply as the Trojans face a five-game slate of must-win games. They have used up all of those get-out-of-jail free cards.
“We want to play for the Pac-12 Championship,” Chris Hawkins said after beating Utah on Saturday. “Our No. 1 goal was to win the South. So we have to win all of these games.”
On the docket this weekend is Cal. USC has yet to beat a team from the Pac-12 North. Whether that is because the focus has been too keyed into the South to the exclusion of all else, or because the Trojans have just happened to drop those games out of the division is hard to say.
Without a doubt though, USC has rationalized those losses as acceptable up to this point because games in the South have been given more value.
If that remains the case come Sunday, the season will effectively be over.
“We really need to go on a streak to where we’re beating everybody,” Hawkins said. “Knowing that our back is against the wall every game no matter what, we can’t lose another game.”
The urgency which the Trojans approached the game against Utah must transfer over to their play this weekend as well, on the road up north.
“We said going into the game that failure is not an option,” Clay Helton said.
That should be the motto every week from now until December, whether facing North or South.
And Ten USC Football News Links…
- Reign of Troy: Kickoff time for USC’s game against Arizona in two weeks has been set for 7:30 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.
- Reign of Troy: USC opened as a 4-point favorite over Cal, though that line quickly moved to closer to six.
- Campus Rush: Pete Thamel examines the many job openings around college football, including the situation surrounding Pat Haden and USC’s coaching search.
- ESPN: Greg Katz says it’s too early to call Clay Helton to favorite for the USC job, but he’s got to be on the radar after the Trojans’ win over Utah.
- ESPN: In Johnny Curren’s latest recruiting notebook, he catches up with 2017 Trojan commit Thomas Graham who says he’s still 100 percent committed despite the coaching change.
- LA Times: Cam Smith was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the week for his three interception performance against Utah.
- CBS Sports: Smith was also named the college football player of the week by CBS Sports.
- OC Register: Michael Lev runs down the good and not-so-good from USC’s victory in his weekly report card.
- Sports Illustrated: One of Colin Becht’s three big takeaways from the college football weekend was that USC picked up major momentum by beating Utah, but dashed some of the odds on the Pac-12 being represented in the College Football Playoff.
- The Student Section: Matt Zemek makes a case for USC avoiding Kyle Whittingham in the search for a new head coach, favoring the strategy of hiring an offensive-minded coach who could bring in a top defensive coordinator.