Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sweet USC vs. ND 2005 Videos

USC vs. Notre Dame 2005

Episode 5: Darth Poodle (everybody loves the Imperial March!)

Wake up the echoes . . . not so much. Notre Dame did pull out all the stops and almost pulled off the classic upset. More likely, based on the result of this year's game, it seems that Notre Dame merely used up all their mojo for at least the next four years (or did Dr. Evil just steal it).

I'm sure somebody will soon put together something pretty cool from this year's game.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Trojan Envy?

From a Domer? Yes, indeed, and expressed in a public forum, no less. What is the world coming to?

What has to be even more painful (if you're a Notre Dame fan), is the realization that your hoodie-wearing, crew-cutted, robot genius coach with all the Superbowl rings may not be the savior of your storied football program after all. I wonder if anybody in South Bend is having second thoughts about giving Charlie Weis that multi-million dollar 10-year contract extension after his seventh game as a collegiate head coach.

USC to Wear Home Jerseys at the Rose Bowl?

A quote from Pete Carroll's weekly Tuesday press conference:

"I'm going to ask Coach Dorrell next year that they wear their home jerseys at the Coliseum . . . . I am hoping when they come here, they will be able to do that. I asked the Pac-10 about that last year and there are some issues. I think it's silly that there are some issues that we are going to have to forfeit a timeout or something, but I will do it. I think it's worth it. We should continue to enhance the beauty of this matchup."

This would be a return to the tradition of both teams wearing their home jerseys for the rivalry game, as they used to do when the game was played in the Coliseum every year before fUCLA moved their home games to the Rose Bowl. It's unclear from the quote - is Carroll planning to play in the home jerseys this Saturday against fUCLA or does he want to resolve the issues with the Pac-10 or work out an agreement with Coach Dorrell first? Lord knows we could get by without the time out; we practically threw one away last week on that ridiculous coach's challenge of a fourth down spot.

Anyway, I think it would be outstanding if the Trojans came out in their home jerseys this Saturday, like sort of an eff you to fUCLA . . . yeah, we know we have to play this game on your home field, but this is really our house and everyone knows who's king in this city.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Forget all the BCS rankings nonsense. You can't control that shit. The Trojans, however, took care of everything in their control and clinched the Pac-10 title. In doing so, they became the first team in the Pac-10 to win five straight conference championships, and I couldn't be happier. Congratulations!

Michigan is still second in the BCS rankings after losing to Ohio State yesterday. Big deal. I don't think it'll stay that way if USC beats Notre Dame and UCLA. Michigan has finished their regular season. USC has two games left and their computer rankings will only improve if they keep winning. Of course, it would definitely help matters if Arkansas and Nebraska win their conference championships. Like I said above, none of that is worth worrying about. It's out of our control. In the meantime, we'll enjoy our record-setting championship and kick some ass in the Rose Bowl if it comes down to that.

One thing I will guarantee is that you won't see Pete Carroll whining to the media and campaigning to the pollsters à la Mack Brown, Tommy Tuberville, or Charlie Weis.

Exactly Right

Stewart Mandel expresses simply and concisely the best argument against an Ohio State-Michigan rematch:

My point all along . . . is that we don’t really know Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams. It’s just an opinion. The only way to find out for sure would be to let someone else take a shot at the Buckeyes.

That's right; we already know that Ohio State is better than Michigan. They proved it on the field. It doesn't make sense to make them prove it again. Give the champion of another conference the opportunity in the BCS Championship to prove on the field that Ohio State isn't the best team in the country. At this point, in most deserving order, those teams are as follows:

1. USC (Pac-10 champ), if they beat Notre Dame and UCLA;
2. Arkansas/Florida winner (SEC champ), if that team wins its last regular season game;
3. Louisville (Big East champ), if they win their two remaining games; and
4. West Virginia (Big East champ), if they win their two remaining games (with Rutger's loss, Louisville now holds the tie-breaker for conference champion if both Louisville and West Virginia win out).

Only if none of those teams take care of business should Michigan be sent to the BCS Championship. Sorry, Notre Dame, but if Michigan and ND end up being the two top-ranked one-loss teams, Michigan gets the nod. You can't erase Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I know; the Trojans’ record this season is not perfect and neither is the team. One thing that is perfect about USC football is Pete Carroll’s philosophy about game preparation and the mental foundation of performing consistently at a high level.

I don’t read the transcripts of Carroll’s weekly Tuesday press conferences very often, but several excellent quotes emerged from this week’s conference that provide insight into Carroll’s philosophy and serve as a reminder of how USC has been able to maintain excellence for almost five years now.

USC’s approach to every game is the same:
“I've never even begun to try and pump a game since the first Notre Dame game about it being a special game. I made that mistake in the first year and I knew it was a classic mistake and we haven't done it since and won't do it.”

USC lost that game by 11 points, the only one of Carroll’s 11 losses that was by more than a touchdown.
“Every week, there's something about a game. It's the biggest crowd ever; it's the first time this or that and that's what we've come to expect and that's normal for us in a game. So those factors should not be part of the make up of a game.”

This approach may proscribe the occasional emotion-fuelled victory over a more-talented opponent (which almost got Notre Dame a victory over us last year), but it also helps eliminate the let-downs and poor performances against inferior teams. Hence, beating Stanford 42-0 after the only loss of the year. The key is to establish consistency at an elevated level.

A follow-up question about Carroll’s first game against Notre Dame segued into a great explanation of his philosophy.
“I knew I screwed it up. I knew I blew it. I could tell during the week but I went with it. I just had to learn. It's more fun probably to talk up these kinds of old historic this and that's. And it's fun for everybody but it doesn't serve the preparation of the athletes and the coaches. It doesn't serve you well. You don't need that. We don't need extra incentives. If you understand that every game is a championship game, and you're going to give everything you possibly can in the preparation and in the participation of that game, then when would you ever decide when to, when not to? That's the whole point. It's the same philosophy that goes through everything that we do in football. When are you going to decide that a play is more important than another play; when I need to go full speed or when I need to try my best? So you get out of that mentality – you don't allow for that kind of thinking in any phase. We don't in any phase of our program. We're real hard about any indications of that being displayed by our guys. That's why we try to practice so fast and so hard every single day, every day of the year for six years.”

It’s no surprise then that Carroll was so animated during the instant replay debacle during the Oregon game.
“When the whole instant replay thing happened, if you looked, I think the clock was 13:50 or something left in the game. We were all caught up in the replay thing; we're waiting to see what was going to happen. We were very competitive about not letting them score there. We took them down to fourth down and had a great chance to keep them out of there and not give them a breath of hope and then that whole thing started. It was somewhere in the middle of that, that it clicked in my mind that this is an opportunity that we could lose our edge. If they get this decision, and now it's ten points and there's a whole quarter left to play, that we could really suffer through this, this exchange, momentum and all. And it hit at me and I realized that what I needed to do is I needed to make sure and capture the focus of our players and not let them wander. Sure enough, I walked over and I saw a couple of our red-shirt freshmen offensive linemen kind of sitting on their helmets and they were kind of yucking it up and not really paying attention. And I looked at Dwayne Jarrett and I saw him kind of talking and I realized that I had to capture, I had to attempt to capture what the heck was going on because we might lose the focus and then all of a sudden, this turns into an ESPN game and then they're cheerleading for what the Ducks did at the end of the game as opposed to what we were going to do. So in an effort to try and make sure that we didn't, it was a teachable opportunity as well. That the game isn't over, and that you need to stay focused. I tried to capture them so I was working hard. From the All-American receiver and the quarterback and Ryan Kalil and the oldest guy in Oscar Lua, to the red-shirt freshman, I was trying to send the message of how we need to finish this game and to make sure that if nothing else, they were captured by my craziness down there. What was extraordinary for us in that moment is that the offense went out on the field after they scored, after all the garbage that happened, the offense went out there and went "Bang!" right down the field and scored a touchdown and it was over. We had them. I was fearing that we had the opportunity to lose the momentum over whatever that span was going to be and it was so important to remain competitive throughout that game that whatever it took, I was going to do it. Obviously, whatever it took, took me a little bit too far. But that was a competitors moment right there I thought. I wanted to at least let them know what I was feeling. I was wearing it on my sleeve.”

Methinks he could write a book about this stuff.

On scheduling:
“Go back to the Auburn games and the Virginia Tech game, and the Arkansas game. Those are extraordinary bowl game atmospheres that are perfect for you to start your season off because once you've accomplished that win however you do it, you set yourself in motion to handle whatever is going to come up during the course of the season. I think there's a vast difference between that and playing a team that's from a different division or something. Some teams do, and we understand the philosophy there and it's a great philosophy as well but this has really served us well. There's no time when we ever take a breather in the schedule or look at anybody than the opponent because we know that anybody can beat you. That's about learning how to respect the game and respect the match-ups and respect what can happen that can be outside of your control. That's why playing against teams that are struggling is such an issue to play well because now you've gone over the top, you've lived the philosophy, and you've proven that you understand.”

I love the (unintentional, perhaps, but not likely) little dig at teams that schedule Div. 1-AA opponents, and this response to a question about Florida playing Western Carolina this week.
“We couldn't be playing for a Rose Bowl if we were playing Western Carolina. I think the impact of the Pac-10 championship being this week is perfect timing. It's beautiful and we're looking forward to it.”

There’s much more, including Carroll’s opinion of instant replay (he’s against it in any format), a joke about the meaninglessness of statistics, teasing Jeff Tedford about attention from the NFL, and his take on the importance of coaching vs. players’ talent.

Sorry about the length of this post – just trying to live up to the name of the blog!

Turning Point 2006

Last January, just prior to the Rose Bowl, I posted an entry outlining the turning point games of the 2002 – 2005 seasons. The loss to Oregon State looks like this season’s turning point. A recap:

2002: Having lost in overtime the previous week to WSU, USC trailed Cal 21-3. The Trojans scored 27 consecutive points to win the game 30-28. USC blew out its remaining 7 opponents, including Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
2003: Again coming off an overtime loss, USC was down 17-10 at halftime to ASU. The Trojans scored 27 unanswered points to win 37-17. The team won its remaining eight games by an average of more than 26 points, including a Rose Bowl win over Michigan to win its first national championship since 1978.
2004: It was the Cal game again. With USC leading by six, Cal advanced to first and goal with less than two minutes remaining. The USC defense held, sacking Aaron Rodgers (who set a single-game record for consecutive completions earlier in the game) on second down and forcing three incompletions. The Trojans won their remaining eight games, including a 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
2005: After the Notre Dame game, Leinart finally shrugged off the pressure of maintaining a school-record winning streak and leading the team to an unprecedented third national title and started playing relaxed football again. The team won the remainder of their regular season games handily (except a close one to Fresno State), but lost the BCS Championship game to Texas.

2006 so far: Trailing 33-10 with less than 20 minutes remaining against Oregon State, USC scored the last 21 points of the game and narrowly missed sending the game to overtime when their 2-point conversion attempt failed with seven seconds remaining. Since the loss, USC has beat Stanford 42-0 and Oregon 35-10, thereby outscoring its opponents 98-10 in the last 140 minutes of play. There are two big differences between the Oregon State game and the turning point games of the previous four seasons. First of all, the game ended as a loss. Second, it came a little bit later in the season, but only by a game or two. This is not surprising considering the youth of this year’s team.

Of course, I had the benefit of hindsight last season whereas there are still three games left in the 2006 regular season. However, if recent history is any indication, and the trend that started late in the Oregon State game continues, Trojan fans have much to look forward to for the remainder of the season.