It's Week 4 and we're still Just Askin'

All sorts of questions, about this USC team and the rest of an ever-improving roster of Pac-12 opponents, arise after an interesting Saturday of college football along with this one: Will the Trojans get themselves right and will players like Leonard Williams get themselves healthy?

The thought was to take this weekend and take stock of a Trojans team's future as it enjoys the bye and, as Steve Sarkisian advised it to, sit back in front of the TV and "enoy some football."

If only.

Only what happened over the weekend wasn't exactly the best news for the USC team that didn't show up a week ago at Boston College. Based on this weekend, that team is in trouble . . . we're "Just Sayin.' "

*** Even in the Pac-12, if you can't run the ball or defend the run, the exact formula for success that Pete Carroll used to resurrect the program, the tough man game that Trojans have always been so proud of, scouting opponents doesn't matter all that much . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But before we get to Saturday, how about the good news for USC football -- at least by proxy -- that came down late Friday when the California Court of Appeals finally set the date for the court hearing on the NCAA's feckless appeal -- after 22 months and 38 separate legal maneuverings -- to dismiss Todd McNair's lawsuit against the organization that for its own purposes conspired to destroy the USC program with McNair as collateral damage in the process. We'll return to this more between now and Oct. 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the state's Reagan Office Building downtown, but the case is fully briefed and there's nowhere for the NCAA to hide at this point. Stall yes, hide no . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But back to football, has there ever been a weekend that proves in the Pac-12 and everywhere else it's not about your program or your conference or any of that -- it's about the team that shows up on Saturday and what it's been doing the rest of the week to get there. Not that the USC-BC game a week ago didn't make that point . . . Just Sayin'.

*** For USC, the trips to Tucson, Salt Lake City and Pullman just got a little bit -- or a whole lot -- tougher. You're not going to beat the Wildcats and the Utes, even the Cougs, just by showing up in Cardinal and Gold. They think they can beat anybody any way they need to now, or in the Cougs' case, at least have a shot. You will have to show up ready to play, much more ready than the last two weeks even if USC dodged a hail of bullets at Stanford somehow . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Nice job by the Pac-12 officials to keep Oregon alive for the national title against Washington State. That's how they do it in the SEC, right? Pass interference? What pass interference? No need to throw a flag there. Wouldn't want to be called flag-happy, would we. That's not how we do it in the Pac-12 . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Not sure if beating Cal at home on how many Hail Mary's the way Arizona did or holding off Michigan in a deluge in The Big House as Utah did really matters all that much in the big picture today, but it has to help each of them when the Trojans come to town -- especially if USC isn't ready to play . . . Just Sayin'.

*** One good result from the weekend for college football coaches in general, however, is this: No fan base can ever call their guy the worst coach in the business as long as Clemson's Dabo Swinney is calling shots for the Tigers. Yikes. Jameis Winston has a Guardian Angel in South Carolina . . . Just Sayin'.

*** When we say it's not about your conference, how about a sign of life from the Big Ten with Indiana -- no really, Indiana -- going into the den of SEC bad boy Missouri and coming out a winner . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Speaking of SEC "bad boys," how bad is a Top 10 LSU to get slapped around in Tiger Stadium by an unranked Mississippi State -- yeah, that Mississippi State -- the way it did on a Saturday night when there were barely 20,000 fans left at the end of a game when somehow LSU still had a chance . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So now here a 2-1 USC team is, out ahead in the Pac-12 South after the win over Stanford and still with the most favorable path to winning the South, getting ready for a couple of games in the Coliseum that most everyone saw as manageable just a couple of weeks ago. But now there's really no sense of which Trojan team or gameplan or coaching philosophy will show up for an unbeaten Oregon State Saturday or an unpredictable Arizona State the following week. Not a great way to go into this week but it's good to be at home at least . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But at a time when USC can't seem to figure out how or when to run it or throw it, there's a record-breaking offensive genius in the SEC, just 50 weeks after his Trojans' team's total offensive flameout against Washington State in the Coliseum, who is being lauded for the new Pac-12 thinking he's brought to 'Bama. Maybe Nick Saban really is a genius . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The biggest challenge going into a week that matters so much for a Sark program in its infancy is you don't know which way to turn to fix the Trojans team that showed up at BC. Do you fix a "stubborn" offensive philosophy that predetermined what it was going to do regardless of what BC was doing to stop it? Or do you fix a defense that "pressed" and "panicked" and "tried to do too much" and did far too little right starting with tackling, pursuing, pressuring, communicating, all that stuff? Take your pick. We'll pick "all of the above." . . . Just Sayin'.

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