Minnesota (0-0) at (25) Southern California (0-0) (-23.5)
USC’s secondary coach resigned Thursday, the team’s defense was historically, hilariously bad last year, the offense only showed hints of breaking out of the vanilla coma created in the Sarkisian/Bates/late Carroll era, and the Trojans still ineligible for both the Pac-12 title game and a post-season bowl.
Looking good so far, fellas.
It happens to most phenoms that outside forces play a heavy role in the decline, but many of the mistakes are of their own making. Secondary coach Willie Mack Garza either left the team because of “personal issues” or because he has a previous relationship with Will Lyles a.k.a. patient zero in the burgeoning influence-peddling scandal in college recruiting. Not sure how many people Oregon will have to ask to resign, but “the whole football staff” isn’t as long a shot as it seems.
Sarcasm aside, USC actually looks pretty good for the 2011 season. The Trojans are far and away the best team in the southern division of the Pac-12 and get to let Oregon and Stanford mutilate each other for the northern division title. Only a plucky Arizona State team or a major surprise from UCLA is going to threaten USC.
Minnesota sure as hell isn’t going to pose a huge threat to them. While the Golden Gophers might have a few surprises for the revamped Tampa-2 defense USC runs, it’s always helpful for a defense that sucked the year before to face an offense that sucked even more. To make it worse, Minnesota is replacing their quarterback who – while not being particularly great – did set a school record for starts with 50. Hey look! I read the ESPN preview.
As long as Lane Kiffin keeps the USC offense from reverting to the Late-Pete-Carroll Era offense (lame zone-blocking runs, followed by swing passes to the fullback, followed by so many bootleg passes it makes one suspect Carroll thought he’d found a glitch in the video game and could make it work in real life), expect a 50-spot on the scoreboard from USC Saturday.
We should really be allowed to gamble on how many times the coaches and players say the word “progress” after the game. As in, “We’re really making progress on offense and especially defense. There’s still some room to grow, but I liked what I saw on the field this afternoon.” What they’ll really mean, of course, is “Oregon will still house us, but we’re still better than chumps like this.”
Finally, and I don’t want to be grandiose but USC’s entire season rides on Matt Barkley’s right arm. If he’s decent (62 percent completions 3,100 yards, 26 TD), then USC will probably win eight games. If he’s great (70-plus percent, 3,500 yards, 30 TDs), and he seems to think he will be, then at least USC fans get to say “what if?” about the 2011 Trojans.
You’ll know everything about Kiffin’s approach from the first game. If Barkley only throws 19 times yet plays the whole game or even early into the fourth quarter, you’ll know the coaches think the running backs need to carry the team, and Barkley is full of crap.
Prediction: USC covers 56-20