Tuesday, September 8, 2009

USC-San Jose State: 5 Things Recap

Here is a recap of USC's 56-3 blowout of San Jose State on Saturday, through the lens of my 5 things to watch for post on Friday.

1. Who gets the early carries?

Matt Barkley put on a good opening act, but Saturday was all about Joe McKnight. The junior tailback got the early carries, and even more importantly, continued to get carries after coughing it up for the umpteenth time in his USC career.

Pete Carroll appears more than willing to put up with McKnight's fumbling woes, which should be as concerning to Trojans fans as McKnight's dazzling second touchdown dash was promising.

2. Will Bates be all about balance?

This might have more to do with No. 3 than anything else, but new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates was content giving the majority of touches to USC's stable of tailbacks.

Running the ball worked, so Bates ran with it. You have to expect that will be the Trojans' strength moving forward, so we'll call the game one play-calling a plus.

3. Will everything be kept under wraps?

Yes. The reason? Nothing special had to be done to stomp all over the Spartans.

As the commentators said in the fourth quarter, "USC is running no more than five plays."

Just as Carroll and Bates planned it.

4. Can David Ausberry be a threat?

The jury is still out on this one. He wasn't needed Saturday, and thus, this is still a major question for USC.

5. How hard will Taylor Mays try to get a pick?

It was entertaining watching Mays after the whistle had sounded. I think he patted just about every San Jose State player on the butt. Twice.

This being Mays' fourth season, he probably understood more than his younger teammates that the game was little more than a glorified scrimmage.

We'll see how Mays approaches the Buckeyes next week.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

USC-San Jose State: 5 Things to Watch For

My Coliseum press box days are behind me, but I figure I still have a little armchair QB left in me.

My biggest gripe with USC football during the four years I was there was the lack of exciting football games. My freshman year definitely had its share (opening with 70-17 over Arkansas, finishing with Vince Young's confetti parade and staging the Bush Push in between), but after that point... well, I suppose there was the Chauncey Washington-Justin Forsett duel at Cal.

Truth be told, the most exciting games were USC's losses. Mark Sanchez's failed comeback attempt at Oregon in 2007 was a great game to watch. My most memorable moment as Daily Trojan Sports Editor was standing in the northeast corner of the Coliseum field as Tavita Pritchard connected with Mark Bradford on 4th and 9.

Heartbreaking proof that silence truly is deafening.

Looking at the schedule this year, you'd think the Trojans are due for some barn-burners. Just remember, the same was said two years ago.

At the very least, USC fans will have to wait until the Ohio State game to really get the blood flowing. So until then, here are five things to watch for in Saturday's game:

1. Who gets the early carries?

C.J. Gable started nearly every game for USC last year. It's a good trivia fact because he was hardly the feature back - many games, he'd trot off the field after the first snap or carry.

But Pete Carroll has always been fairly routine when it comes to tailback reps. Last year it was Gable, then Joe McKnight, then Stafon Johnson.

Every tailback will probably get carries Saturday, but expect some "rotational symmetry" in future games.

2. Will Bates be all about balance?

Former offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were all about balance - to a point where you wondered what was more important: scoring points or presenting a balanced offensive attack?

If you've run the ball three consecutive times for 15, 14 and 35 yards, respectively, then the next move is obviously to throw the ball.

Balance, people, balance.

New OC Jeremy Bates has an NFL pedigree; and the NFL is a league where balance means very little. You go with what works.

We'll see if he makes USC a true "pro-style" offense.

3. Will everything be kept under wraps?

If you think back to recent non-marquee OOC games, the Trojans have been pretty damn boring. And in almost every case, they had a big-name opponent waiting in the wings.

USC knows it can beat San Jose State straight up, and pretty handily at that. It'll be interesting to see if any new tweaks are unveiled.

Matt Barkley in the shotgun airing it out deep to Brice Butler?

Don't count on it.

4. Can David Ausberry be a threat?

I'm sick of all this "Ausberry has potential" talk. Implied in the word "potential" is the idea that you haven't reached your expected peak.

Ausberry was the talk of camp two years ago, with fans oozing about his impressive practice outings.

Yes, we're talkin' 'bout practice.

Until he shows up in a game, I'm not sold.

5. How hard will Taylor Mays try to get a pick?

The secret's out. Mays even said it himself in a recent LA Times article by Gary Klein: His hands are spotty.

Everyone, including NFL scouts, knows that Mays can hit. Hard.

What we don't know is whether Mays can catch.

It'll be interesting to see if Mays shifts his focus from blowing receivers up to stealing their lunch.

The pick

USC 31, San Jose State 3

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lou Holtz: Proof That You, Too, Can Be On ESPN

There's blind support, there's unhealthy fanaticism, and then there's Lou Holtz.

There are quarterbacks that can't hang it up, there are long-time execs whose industries have passed them by, and then there's Lou Holtz.

There's John Daly, there's Richard Simmons, and then there's Lou Holtz.

Everyone knows that ole' Lou loves Notre Dame. ESPN knew it when it hired him. Until this week, however, it hadn't affected his ability to be a sane human being.

But now Lou Holtz is looking straight into the camera and declaring that Notre Dame has the best chance of winning the BCS National Championship.

Yes, that Notre Dame. Yes, this season.

It's now quite apparent that Lou Holtz has reached a new level of absurdity, one that even ESPN itself, along with its stable of clueless former athletes posing as commentators, could never have fathomed prior to this week.

In the same sequence, Kirk Herbstreit politely chuckled as he said to Lou, "I think you're on an island with that one."

Check that. Lou is on his own planet - a green planet where the sun shines gold and the rain falls navy blue; where every girl is a virgin and every neighborhood is united by its local pastor, Paul; and where dutiful citizens hitch rides on shamrock-shaped hovercrafts driven by leprechauns, guided at night not by streetlamps but by the glimmering light of Touchdown Jesus.

Lou, buddy, this is your job. You get paid to dole out your expert opinion. Heck, even if it's not expert, it's at least supposed to be educated. You aren't speaking to your Irish football team anymore.

I'm sure there won't be much written about this because Holtz has long been viewed less as a journalist and more as a source of entertainment, but think about it: If Holtz was anyone other than himself, wouldn't he be fired?

Truly. Who else could honestly saying that he's picking Notre Dame to win the championship, keep a straight face, slowly shift his gaze to the guy on his left to see what his pick is, and still have a job at ESPN the next day?

ESPN Ombudsman, where you at?

I mean, if I were Herbstreit, or Mark May, or Rece Davis, I'd wonder why I go to work every day. It's quite apparent that journalistic credibility means very little when it comes to TV ratings.

Just throw on a ridiculous hat and scream abysmal versions of college fight songs.

Grab a chalkboard and a jersey and make lovably awful halftime speeches.

Son, you were made for ESPN.