Burn The Boats: Scondi’s USC vs. Western Michigan Preview

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Head Clay Helton of the USC Trojans leads his team on the field for the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irishat the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2016. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Head Clay Helton of the USC Trojans leads his team on the field for the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irishat the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 26, 2016. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

USC vs. Western Michigan opens the 2017 season at the LA Coliseum. It’s the perfect warmup for a potential championship run.

Disclaimer: Anything written here or by me in the future should not be taken seriously. It is all satire. USC football needed more lighthearted and humorous coverage of their team so I decided to take it upon myself (despite no one asking). 

This last Saturday, a lot of people paid way too much money to watch a lopsided match involving someone woefully unqualified who danced around for an hour or so before getting knocked out by one of the greatest of all-time. It seemed as if the eventual winner was toying with his opponent until he got fed up and decided to end it once and for all.

So, in a way, the Mayweather-McGregor fight was perfect way to prepare for USC’s opener against Western Michigan.

Around this time last year, every Trojan fan was convinced USC was going to shock the world and beat the defending champions, Alabama.

This year, the Crimson Tide are Florida State’s problem. Good. In a season with no bye week, USC needed a small appetizer before the Trojans start this 12-course meal. Sure, some of these plates might be as tough as a well-done steak (Stanford, Texas, Notre Dame), but there are plenty of light dishes and palate cleansers in between that will leave us plenty of room for dessert and a potentially even a night-cap. Hopefully our Uber is a brand new Mercedes-Benz and not a car with Arizona license plates that reeks of Tostitos chips.

This season is going to be a grind, and up until this past spring, it wasn’t looking like we were going to be able to ease into the season.

Thankfully our opponent, who became famous for rowing the boat, is sinking. Women and children aren’t first in this evacuation plan. Head coaches and NFL talent are.

This is the first time the Trojans have ever played a team from the MAC conference and hopefully they beat them so badly, it becomes the last.

Luckily, I write on a website with people more qualified to talk about the USC Trojans than I am, so I don’t have to go to extensive lengths to preview our team or our opponent. With every media outlet pivoting to video, I’m sure over ten thousand words on one football game isn’t going to help save sports journalism.

USC Team Preview: The Good, The Bad, And The Uncertain

The Good


I just needed visual confirmation that Sam Darnold is still on the roster and starting at quarterback.

Who knows if he decided to hang up his cleats, start a Patreon, and become a full time podcaster.

Running Backs

While the Texas Tesla is parked in the driveway, there’s plenty of horsepower in the garage, including a brand new Carr.

It’s safe to say the moniker of “Tailback U” is back, with USC planning on going with a four-back rotation this fall. Ronald Jones and Aca’Cedric Ware will receive the bulk of the carries, with Vavae Malepaei coming in for short yardage and goal line situations.

That doesn’t seem to leave many carries for true freshman Stephen Carr, but he’s shown a ton of promise this fall.

Yeah, the only way he doesn’t find the field this year is if he isn’t allowed into the stadium because security tried to confiscate that six pack concealed under his jersey.


It probably has to do with the fact that Adoree’ Jackson is gone and I am in the denial stage of grieving, but I’m really excited to see how well our secondary does this year.

They are the perfect combination of experience and talent. I know I’m not alone in thinking they can be one of the best in the nation. That is, until Iman Marshall gets flagged for pass interference, and every Trojan fan with a Twitter account is screaming for him to move to safety.


Our defense as a whole is going to be stellar. While USC did lose talent on every level, the Trojans replaced them with seasoned veterans, who have very promising freshman right behind them on the depth chart. This is the first time I’ve actually seen the Trojan team reload and not rebuild. It’s no longer something fans say when contemplating hiring a head coach on Pete Carrol’s coaching tree.

The Bad


So the kicking situation isn’t going to be as stellar as it was last year, but I’d gladly trade a couple kicks wide right for the toll my conscience would take having Matt Boermeester on the roster.

Our current options at place kicker are redshirt freshman Michael Brown or true freshman Chase McGrath.

(This article will probably be published after the starter has been named so someone edit this so I don’t look like an idiot that takes forever to write stuff. If no one deleted this, hello Trojan fans, welcome to my writing process.)

On the other side (or foot) there’s a competition between punters Chris Tilbey and Reid Budrovich, which is weird because of this:

It’s almost like anyone can be nominated to win a trophy before the season starts.

*nervously starts sweating about Sam Darnold*

The Uncertain

Wide Receivers

So our starting three wide receivers are:

  • Steven Mitchell Jr: Coming back from a torn ACL.
  • Jalen Greene: Former quarterback whose playing time prior to this season was primarily double passes and trick plays.
  • Deontay Burnett: His catch in the Rose Bowl is the background on my phone and my cover photo on Facebook.

This starting lineup doesn’t seem like it’s going to make up for the losses of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers. I understand it’s a tall task, and the starting receivers match up well with Darnold’s short and efficient passing style, but USC needs a deep threat to keep opposing secondaries honest. The reason Burnett took off late last season is because the secondary had to focus on preventing any big play opportunities, which allowed him to get open in the slot.

USC says it is planning on using a six-man rotation at wide receiver, so players with big play ability like Michael Pittman Jr, Velus Jones Jr., and Tyler Vaughns will get to see the field.

Maybe these backup receivers are being penalized for their ridiculous jersey number choices. Can’t have a starting wide receiver with No. 21 or No. 23 like Vaughns and Jones Jr. respectively.

Offensive Line

Bad news: USC lost three starters from last year.

Good news: Because of injuries from last year and an abundance of talent in the trenches, every starter on USC offensive line has had previous playing experience.

Greatest news: No one got seriously injured during Spring and Fall camp (knock on wood because the week isn’t over).

It really is a toss-up on how good USC’s offensive line will be this year, but fans should expect a regression in the pass protection. It’s going to be hard to replace two All-American tackles. Good thing the Trojans have a quarterback with legs. Can’t believe it took us 125 teams to get one of those.

Kick/Punt Returners

This is literally an uncertain because the depth chart currently lists seven starters for two positions. Unless they are all going to be back there at the same time. With Coach John Baxter, you never know.

Filling the role left by Adoree’ Jackson is going to be incredibly difficult, but the remaining talent on the roster should allow for some dynamic returns. I don’t think it will take seven players to do it. Maybe two, three tops.

Western Michigan Team Preview

Note: A lot of my research on Western Michigan came from Bill Connelly’s team preview.  He’s one of the best in the game and deserves recognition whenever possible. 

You know that guy who peaked in high school, and is doing whatever he can to recapture that glory? That’s Western Michigan this year. After going undefeated before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl last year, the team that used to be known for rowing the boat has more people jumping ship than the Titanic.


The biggest loss Western Michigan suffered this past year was the departure of their head coach, P.J. Fleck, who was able to take Western Michigan from 1-11 to 13-1 in three years.

Fleck is most known for his “Row The Boat” mantra, which he explained at the What Drives Winning conference:

"“It’s a never-give-up mantra that has to do strictly with life or adversity or handling success, never giving up, and it means a few things. When you row a boat, you’re rowing, don’t ever look at me and paddle. That’s completely different. We’re rowing. Your back is to the future, which is something you cannot control, nor can you see. You have to trust the person in front of you, that you’re looking at, that they’re doing their job and rowing at the same speed, same efficiency as you are. But that’s the future, you can’t control that. You don’t know if there’s rocks, water falls, stormy seas, you don’t know what’s ahead of you. You’re rowing in the present, which is the only thing you can actually control, and the only thing you can actually have an impact on. You either choose to take your oars and put them back in the boat and stop, or you put them back in the water and continue to go. But you’re looking at the past, which is the only thing you can actually learn from. But you can’t change.”"

Fleck decided it was time to row his boat in a different lake, so in the offseason he moved his dock from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior, taking the Minnesota head coaching job. Fleck brought along a life raft filled with former Western Michigan assistants, leaving the school with a lot of job opportunities to post on LinkedIn.

Without Fleck, Western Michigan is up a certain creek without a paddle.

Their new head coach, Tim Lester, was a former Western Michigan quarterback. Lester is in the school’s Hall of Fame, meaning he’s definitely worn a letterman jacket past the age of 18. He also played in the XFL and Arena League.

Embed from Getty Images

(I wonder if “He Hate Me” is coaching the running backs.)


Western Michigan didn’t just lose the best coach in their program’s history, they also lost some of their best players.

The Broncos lost last year’s starting quarterback Zack Terrell, who had one of the best passer ratings in the nation. The Broncos had a chance to recover at the quarterback position but lost their chance to be elite with the transfer of quarterback Tom Flacco to Rutgers.

The job ended up going to Jon Wassink, who according to the Battle Creek Enquirer, had a slight edge in the quarterback competition heading into the fall.

Is Tom Flacco elite? We will have to wait a year to find out.

They lost their phenom wide receiver, Corey Davis. Davis had 97 catches for 1,500 yards and 19 TDs last year. He was drafted by the Titans with the fifth overall pick and is such a special talent, Tennessee even unretired Randy Moss’ jersey number for him.

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(This isn’t a photoshop, folks. I know, I wish it was too.)

I’m not sure what percentage of catches Davis accounted for, but it must have been a lot because Western Michigan lost a majority of their targets from last year. Only one returning wideout, D’wayne Eskridge, caught more than 10 passes last year.

Oh, and they lost an all-conference tackle and two-year starting guard.

So what does Western Michigan have?

They have a hell of a running game anchored by Jarvion Franklin, Jamauri Bogan, and LaVante Bellamy. Last year, they combined for over 2,400 yards. While they lost two starting linemen, they return two all-conference linemen as well, so their run protection won’t take as large of a hit as expected.

They also have a new coordinator in Kevin Jones who has the blueprint to recovering from such a large turnover of talent on offense. As former coordinator for Indiana, he used the running game to help the offense recover from the large loss of talent between seasons. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, he’ll have to do it without his former running back coach, Deland McCullough, who will be on the opposite sidelines this Saturday. Hopefully McCullough stole Jones’ special green playbook before leaving for USC.

Live look at Kevin Jones’ pre-game ritual


On defense, the Broncos return almost everyone, and by almost, I mean they lost basically their entire defensive line. Their strengths will be in the linebacker corps and secondary.

Special Teams

I don’t know if this really matters since I don’t see this game being one in which field position and kicking accuracy are determining factors.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

This weekly section is for Trojan fans who are still deciding whether to go to the game or not.

You should probably go to the first home game of USC’s championship run, but given that it’s at a weird time, it’s supposed to be above 90 degrees that day, and the opponent isn’t as appetizing as the ones we face in the next two weeks, there’s enough reason for skipping this game to make it to the Bungalow one last time before the end of Summer.

However, there’s one major caveat people may not know about this weekend: The USC game will be on the Pac-12 Network

For some reason (Larry Scott), the Pac-12 Network isn’t on DirectTV. So if you don’t have satellite, go to the game. If you’re one of the suckers that has to deal with Comcast customer service every week because your cable box is always malfunctioning or they keep throttling down your internet, stay at home and watch with the A/C on full blast.

If a random writer is helping you determine some of your life decisions, maybe reassess your life a little bit.


When I was looking at our schedule last year, I had this game as a legitimate toss-up because I’m scared of Fleck and the “Row the Boat” mantra. Luckily for USC (and me), he decided to leave with half of Western Michigan staff and a majority of their best players.

That doesn’t mean the former MAC champions have turned into a cupcake. There are still plenty of players on this squad who have played in big time games against big time opponents, so USC can’t mail it in. However, they can probably use UPS next day delivery since they outmatch the Broncos in every category.

More from Reign of Troy

On offense, they can put this game away early by attacking Western Michigan’s depleted defensive line with their rushing attack. It would be a great way for the offensive line to establish some cohesion and warm up before facing teams like Stanford and Texas, who are known for dominating the trenches. This is the first game of the season, and you should probably see what doesn’t work and what does.

Unfortunately, both Michael Pittman and Daniel Imatorbhebhe are hobbled by injuries and might not see the field, so the Trojans passing attack will be without a few of its key weapons. Nonetheless, Clay Helton should probably see if an offseason of hype has any effect on Sam Darnold’s game.

The defense might struggle a bit to stop Western Michigan’s run game but our secondary should be able to make them very one-dimensional. They might be able to create some long sustained drives during this game but the talent discrepancy is too much to make this game a shootout.

USC win easily because at the end of the day, it five-star talent going against three-star talent. I don’t need to use either of my USC degrees to figure which number is bigger.

It’s five right?

USC 42 WMU 17