Just sayin' . . . down the stretch

Time to look to the final three games and where does USC go from here after where it's been and maybe even a bit of . . . what might have been.

Time to take our time, take a deep breath and look down the road at the finishing three games of a season that with the exception of three other games, has been upbeat as heck.

Of course, excepting those three games is like that classic gag: "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?" We'll never get over those three games now that it's obvious what not blowing them would have meant for this group of players who deserve so much more in their years of USC football. We're "Just Sayin' " here.

*** Just imagine what 7-0 in the Pac-12 and maybe 8-1 overall would feel like right now with a team dressing 48 originally recruited scholarships players and starting six true freshmen . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Who has ever started six true freshmen at this level in modern college football? Anyone. Ever . . . Just Sayin'.

*** As we check out all the superlatives, the records, the potential award-winners, the work of veterans like Cody Kessler, Nelson Agholor, Hayes Pullard, Su'a Cravens and Gerald Bowman and newcomers like Juju Smith, Adoree Jackson, Toa Lobendahn, Bryce Dixon and too many to name here, this is a team we can feel good about even if it could be so much more acclaimed . . . Just Sayin'.

*** For this team not to be ranked this week after the way these players have played and the way their two league losses have happened is a tremendous shame . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But at least the final three games -- Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame -- give this team a chance to replace those other three games -- somewhat -- in USC fans' minds . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The lessons of those three games on a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time coaching staff, however, must not be lost. Sure they didn't prepare properly for Boston College but an in-game course correction that would have had USC throw the ball 60 times and put up 50 points would have made it irrelevant how unprepared USC was to defend the option . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And yes, the end-game meltdowns against Arizona State and Utah showed the value of a mature coaching staff on the sidelines that just has its guys keep playing, does its thing and believes in itself without having to resort to any sort of panicky trickeration . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So now we'll leave those games behind as we ponder John Greenleaf Whitter's immortal words: “Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been.” Yeah, it might have . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Speaking of the final three games ahead, last night's USCFootball.com poll question asked "Which of the three 'worries' you the most?" And our thought is that the only "worry" here would be that UCLA and Notre Dame wouldn't be ranked and lesser opponents. The bigger the challenge, the more fun it should be for this team to take on its top two rivals after what could have been for this bunch . . Just Sayin'.

*** And as long a shot as it is for a 7-2 Trojans team to win the South and get through to the Pac-12 title game in a three-way tiebreaker with Arizona and Arisona State, it's still a shot and one we shouldn't forget right now. Crazier things have happened . . . Just sayin'.

*** That the 2002 USC team finished No. 4 in the nation in the final polls and was eligible for the Orange Bowl despite not winning the Pac-12 comes to mind. Sometimes stuff happens. . . Just Sayin'.

*** That posters here continually discount the season Kessler has had, one of the best any quarterback in the nation is having and one of the best ever by a USC quarterback, while saying they wonder if USC can win big with Cody is a continuing mystery. What the heck are they watching -- or thinking? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Maybe matchups against the nation's No. 2 passer, Cal's Jared Goff, and then the heralded pair of UCLA's Brett Hundley and Notre Dame's Everett Golson, will help put this QB thing into focus for some of the critics . . . Just Sayin'.

*** For those still pessimistic about the eventual release of the NCAA emails in the McNair case, we have been told by those who know about such things in the California legal community that the NCAA could not have possibly drawn a more difficult panel of appellate judges when it comes to wiggling out of the organization's accountability here. Not good for them . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now that we're down to the final days when the call on the return of Josh Shaw must be made, it's disappointing to see how so many around him whose jobs were to counsel and protect a young man making a really bad spur-of-the-moment decision and then sticking to it for too long, have performed by not performing . . . Just Sayin'.

*** From the LAPD investigators who have found no wrongdoing but haven't closed the case to the powers-that-be at USC, whoever they may be in that vast academic bureaucracy, can no one step up and do the right thing -- right now? . . . Just Sayin'.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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