Monday, December 08, 2008

Catch 22

I have been struggling for months to come up with a concise way to make this point. Therefore, thank you to Adam Maya of the Orange County Register:

4. They beat who?
Alabama played Western Kentucky, Tulane and Arkansas State. Florida played Citadel (in November!). Oklahoma played Chattanooga. Texas played Florida Atlantic, UTEP and Rice. It almost doesn’t seem fair that USC played Ohio State, Notre Dame and Virginia, two of which are going to a bowl. There is a catch 22 here regarding the Pac-10: The conference is down because of unimpressive non-conference résumés. Partly why they are unimpressive is because they lost to both good and decent teams.

The SEC and Big 12 are loaded with victories against irrelevant non-conference schools, which inflate their record and make their conference schedules look much tougher, which inflates their rankings. This is obvious to everyone, right?

Unfortunately, this does not appear to be obvious to everyone because I recall reading this sentiment only once previously in print media this season. This scheduling philosophy runs from top to bottom in most BCS conferences with few exceptions. Most SEC and Big 12 teams schedule their way to bowl games by waltzing through four ridiculous non-conferences games, leaving them in position to qualify for a bowl game with a 2-6 conference record.

If the Pac-10 scheduled like the Big 12 and the SEC, the Pac-10 would show much better in the top 25 polls. Nor would producing seven or eight bowl teams be a problem, as it was this year. The problem is compounded by the fact that every Pac-10 school plays nine conference games, more than any other conference in the country, a fact Maya does not even mention.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Carroll to NFL . . . Ever?

This seems like good news . . . unless it's just standard coach-speak in response to the same question about the NFL Carroll fields every fall:

Washington: “You can go down as a legendary coach at the college level, but (are there) any desires when you’re sitting around at the table in the offseason saying, “I wonder if I can do that at the NFL level, and just dominate like how (I’ve) done at the college level?’ ”
Carroll: “I think I’m very fortunate that I had a lot of years in the NFL and had a blast. And I still love the NFL. I think it’s a great league. It’s a great level of competition and all. But we just found home here. It just seems to fit well, and we’ve had a great time here at ‘SC. Been very lucky to be at this school at this time.
“I’m having the time of my life, as content as you can get. And hopefully we’ll just be able to stay here and keep this thing rolling as long as we can.”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Legend of Rey Grows

There is this:

"We let Rey say who he wanted on the kickoff team," recalled Todd McNair, who counts special teams among his coaching duties. "He said 'Gimme all the linebackers.' They're called the Myrmidons."

Maualuga revived the USC tradition that started four years ago, just after the movie "Troy" was released. "It's kinda backwards, because the Myrmidons were Achilles' elite fighting unit," laughed McNair. "They were fighting against Troy and we are Troy. But, we like the idea of the Myrmidons."

How cool is that? Also from the Washington game:
Late in the third quarter, Maualuga asked his coach if he could go in for another kickoff. "Get outta here, you crazy?" McNair told the senior.
Clearly unsatisfied, Maualuga instructed a younger player to walk halfway onto the field and pretend to join the coverage team, then return to the sideline. Maualuga took his place.
"I'm standing there, and Coach [Pete Carroll] is like, 'T-Mac, what the heck?!?'" I look, and he's out there!" said McNair. "Then he proceeds to go down the field, knock two guys down, and tackles 'em on the 2- yard line!"

They took his helmet away after that.

Friday, September 26, 2008


USC is manhandled by Oregon State 21-27. That did not look like a fluke.

I had hoped the 2008 season would not be like 2006 and 2007, when USC suffered one or two inexplicable losses. Now, that is exactly what I hope for in 2008. The last two seasons, the Trojans regrouped after their losses to finish strong and win the conference. We shall see.

A best case scenario would look like 2003, when USC lost in overtime to unranked Cal, but went on to win their remaining nine games in dominating fashion and finish the season ranked #1. We'll see. That did not look like a fluke.

Fight on!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

USC decapitates Ohio State 35-3, September 13, 2008, Los Angeles.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Crazy Stat to Record for Posterity

Pete Carroll is 78-14, two games into his eighth year at USC. His 14 losses have been by a combined total of 59 points. That's an average of 4.2 points per game. Only one loss, in 2001 at Notre Dame, was by more than seven points (USC lost to Notre Dame 16-27 in Carroll's first season).

On Saturday UCLA lost to BYU 0-59.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Norm Chow is Dead to Me

No, not really; I'm just formally disowning him. I harbor no ill will toward Norm Chow and I wish him happiness, but not luck or success when it comes to his new job (which he obviously does not need). Chow is no longer a Trojan. He is a Bruin, so he is now the enemy.

Therefore, you will no longer see me pining after his masterful play-calling. Chow has been gone almost as many years as he was originally with the Trojans. Objectively speaking, there has been no drop-off in offensive production over the last two seasons compared to 2002-2004, Chow's last three years with the Trojans. Refer to USC Trojan Football Analysis for evidence of that assertion. Art of Troy has convinced me that the decreased level of scoring over the last two seasons is actually the result of less opportunistic defensive play, especially in terms of turnovers and direct scoring by the defense.

I obviously have a lot of respect for Chow. He is a fantastic coach and he's getting a lot of well-deserved love from pundits after UCLA's upset of Tennessee. I still believe we would have between one and three more national titles (2005-2007) if he had stayed, but that has to do with better play-calling at critical moments in crucial games, and everyone knows hindsight is 20-20.

If UCLA's new coaching staff helps revive a real rivalry between USC and UCLA, that would be a good thing. However, UCLA first has a lot of work to do on the field. They are off to a good start in 2008, but it's way too early to pass judgment on the success or failure of the new Bruin regime. Pete Carroll went 6-6 his first year at USC with Chow and DeWayne Walker on his staff. It will be interesting to compare Rick Neuheisel's first year at UCLA with Carroll's first year at USC.

L.A. Times background info on Chow to UCLA here (my first draft of this post was back in January).

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Virginia Weekender

The best thing about USC opening their season against UVA in Charlottesville was I got to go to the game! We hitched a ride from DC to Charlottesville on one of the USC Alumni Association charter buses and hung out before the game at the USC tailgate inside UVA's basketball arena, John Paul Jones Arena. We'd been to Charlottesville and the UVA campus before, so we didn't spend any time wandering around campus except for our walk to the stadium.

Scott Stadium from Row Y, Section 521. I read this game set an attendance record for the stadium.

Joe McKnight flies through the air for the Trojans' second touchdown. Pete Carroll celebrates in the background.

Scott Stadium was a pretty cool stadium for college football, especially the lawn behind the opposite end zone.

Marc Tyler's catch and run for a touchdown.

Only Row Z offered respite from the oppressive heat, thanks to a breeze coming over the top of the stadium. We noticed only the home team's benches had canopies providing shade.

Bring on the Buckeyes!

Pete Carroll Is Glad for UCLA

From Ted Miller:

We hear a lot of stuff from the SEC -- I think that's a great statement that UCLA was able to knock those guys off," Carroll said. "I don't know what they'll say from the other side, but you can't make a stronger statement. One of their stronger teams got beaten by a first opportunity for a new coach in a new program. It was a great win for UCLA and I think it does make a big statement. I'm glad it happened.

And why not? It reflects well on the Pac-10, and I don't think for one minute anything UCLA does across town influences Carroll's philosophy about running a football program. Sure, he's competitive, but his focus won't turn to UCLA until November 30, the Sunday before the regular season finale against UCLA. Therein lies the primary difference between USC football and UCLA football: USC measures success by conference titles, BCS bowl victories, and national championships; UCLA measures success by its status in relation to USC.

Previous musings on this topic here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I Love This Shit

All is right and good in the Pac-10 when the media is writing stuff like this:

Nine tenths of the Pac-10 feels no hope.

This group, from Tucson to Seattle to Eugene to Berkeley to Westwood, looks up and sees USC's Men of Troy standing above, smirking in their Cardinal & Gold Armani armor, which sports six gaudy, sequential badges of Pac-10 supremacy.

Watching the historical dominance of the Pac-10 by the Trojans be reflected in the present day, but to a greater degree, is extremely satisfying to one brought into the fold during the 1990s.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It Was Fun While It Lasted

This is what I wrote and intended to post under the heading "It Was Fun While It Lasted" after USC's last loss to Oregon on October 27:

First of all, USC can still finish 10-2 and go to a BCS bowl, so there's plenty to play for. Although the Trojans lost to Oregon last Saturday, their play demonstrated that USC can beat anybody if they eliminate costly mistakes such as red-zone turnovers and big penalties. That includes Oregon State, Cal, Arizona State, and UCLA, the four remaining teams on USC's schedule.

Nevertheless, the Trojans five-year reign over the Pac-10 has unfortunately come to an end. After last Saturday, there is no longer any question that the Trojans have descended from their perch as the dominant program in college football to being merely a 'good' team. As fans, it hurts so much because we know how it feels to be at the top.

At a time like this, it is critical to maintain perspective. As disappointed as we all are right now, we are seven years removed from the darkest days of USC football, before Pete Carroll arrived to lead the Trojans back from irrelevance and mediocrity. The program is incomparably stronger than it was in 2000. USC has not lost its potential to be a great team and there is no reason to believe USC will not continue to compete for Pac-10 and national championships every year.

I don't remember why I didn't follow through with the post (I probably determined it was excessively negative), but having not deleted the draft provides insight into my thinking at the low point of the 2007 season. Clearly, I jumped the gun in giving up on the Pac-10 title and overreacted regarding the Trojans' status in college football. However, until Oregon lost Dennis Dixon, it looked like the Ducks were going to roll through the rest of the conference and into the BCS National Championship Game, where they would have been this year's selection to beat up an over-matched Ohio State team, instead of LSU. So, USC probably owes its sixth consecutive Pac-10 title to Oregon's misfortune (as does LSU its BCS title). Of course, the Trojans had more than their fair share of injuries to overcome.

My thinking was on the mark in other aspects, including my assessment of the team's chances against the remainder of their schedule. Happily, the team also believed there was still plenty to play for, regrouped, and finished the season impressively. Consequently, the 2007 season was "successful", based on my arbitrarily-defined criteria, and the Trojans appear poised to again contend for the national championship in 2008, just as I predicted.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Classy Bruins

Here's an interesting bit of news from Scott Wolf about UCLA's "elegant" handling of the basketball rivalry.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Can Slick Rick Deliver?

The impression I have, based on some Rick Neuheisel statements since he was hired as UCLA's new football coach, is that he is establishing a definition of success for his tenure that is based on UCLA's future performance in relation to USC. I don't mean just UCLA's head-to-head record against USC, but also an ability to win championships and bowl games at a rate comparable to USC. Neuheisel's statements include his televised interview from the stands as a spectator at the Rose Bowl game and his recorded telephone message to UCLA supporters, in which he said, “The team across town has risen to national prominence, and it’s time we meet this head on.”

I respect this approach, but is he setting up himself and his program to fail? My guess is UCLA fans expect to beat the Trojans about as often as they lose to them. Is that a realistic expectation right now? In the past quarter century, USC is 12-12-1 against UCLA, but that includes an eight-game losing streak during the 1990s, pre-Carroll. With Pete Carroll at the helm, the Trojans climbed the college football mountain and have performed at an elite, unprecedentedly consistent level – the 2008 Rose Bowl championship gives the Trojans a 5-1 record over six consecutive BCS bowl appearances. In the same period of time, UCLA has compiled a 43-33 (28-22 Pac-10) record including a 2-4 record in bowl games, none of which were played on or after New Year’s Day.

I don’t expect the Trojans to beat UCLA every year in perpetuity (I can live with one loss out of nine!), but Neuheisel is sowing the seeds of disappointment unless he can engineer a dramatic turnaround in the fortunes of both programs. If he cannot, his performance will not compare favorably against the bar he is setting, and he may not last long in what is probably his last chance as a head coach in the college game.