Thank you Oregon State -- and Arizona State and the weatherman and the TV schedulers of night games in the Northern climes in the Pac-12 in November.
It's UCLA week, Rivalry Week, and the week the season starts all over again -- sort of -- for so many in the Pac-12 South. Sure, USC through its own shortcomings still does not have the division in its own hands here. But it's a whole lot closer to that point right now even if it can never take back the Hail Mary gift to the Sun Devils, whose luck ran out last night in Corvallis, where lots of folks' luck runs out. It's Sunday and we're "Just Sayin'."
*** But of all the hypotheticals and scenarios in a division of five ranked teams with the Trojans moving into the No. 24 spot in the AP this week, a number unmatched in college football even by the seven-team SEC West's four ranked teams, it all comes down to this for USC. If Arizona State loses either of its final two games to Washington State -- unlikely -- or Arizona -- not unlikely -- and USC beats UCLA, the Trojans win the Pac-12 South. Could happen . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And yes we know that all five ranked Pac-12 South teams -- No. 11 UCLA, No. 13 Arizona State, No. 15 Arizona, No. 20 Utah and USC -- have a path to win the division in a finish unlike anything anyone has ever seen. So forget trying to figure 'em all out. We stopped at 14 possibilities on the ESPN blog. Too much information. Just beat UCLA to finish 7-2 first and USC can turn its attention to Notre Dame and let the others sort things out . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Next week, the only game that could help USC for sure, WSU at ASU, kicks off at 10 a.m., so if ASU improbably falls a second straight game, you'll know before you get to the Rose Bowl. Arizona is at Utah also but who knows how that could affect USC with one contender winning, another losing. But the following weekend, with ASU at Arizona and UCLA hosting Stanford on Friday, you'll know where USC stands before the ND kickoff . . .Just Sayin'.
*** Of course it all starts at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Rose Bowl where as we look at the sun setting on the Arroyo Seco behind the San Gabriel Mountains with the lights not yet taking over, we're thinking a trick play would NOT be the way to start the day on offense. That's N-O-T . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But last night in Corvallis reminds us, if the five-way fight for a division title doesn't, that it's really tough to win in the Pac-12 for a reason unlike no other. No other Power Five conference has the kind of major climatological and geographic diversity the Pac-12 offers. It's what makes this place so interesting. But while the ACC has Boston and Miami -- and Notre Dame somewhat -- it's basically a Mid-Atlantic place. And the SEC, even with Missouri, is Dixie with border states. But the Pac-12, if you're an Arizona or SoCal school heading to the Northwest or the mountains in November, you'll be wearing clothing and gear you didn't even know you had -- especially at night. Nine games -- and November when it's really nippy. And then a championship game. Nobody has it tougher . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And now that we have the opening play decided, how about figuring out what NOT to do to open the second half. If you're 25 of 33 passing for 295 yards and averaging 162.5 yards of offense per quarter against Cal, you do whatever it takes to keep that going, You do not drop off more than 100 yards (to 62) in a scoreless third period after throwing the ball 33 times to 15 runs the first half. You do not come out and run it six times to five passes after intermission for a quarter just to run clock. All you're doing is stopping yourself from scoring . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And in the fourth quarter, after blitzing 11 times the first three quarters and allowing just one passing TD according to our Ryan Abraham's charting, you probably should not drop off to a single blitz in the final period while allowing 107 yards and two TDs on the no-blitz plays . . . Just Sayin'.
*** We're saying this because we don't care where USC is ranked among the five Pac-12 South teams, there's not one this young, light-on-numbers but heavy on top-end talent Trojan team couldn't -- and shouldn't -- beat if the coaching holds up for 60 minutes. If the penalties are held down. And of course, if they finally figure out a way to slow down Brett Hundley . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Don't talk about luck or "coulda', woulda', shoulda' " here. Every one of these five teams has had its share of good and bad fortune this season, some more than others in each direction. But Saturday is for making your own luck. That's what good teams do . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And speaking of Notre Dame, how about our guy Kyle Prater's play in helping lead Northwestern to an overtime upset of the no-longer-ranked 7-3 Irish in South Bend with 10 receptions for 81 yards and a TD in a matchup of ex-Trojans against ND's Amir Carlisle, who had a single rush for 16 yards but no catches . . . Just Sayin'.
*** We're seeing there are nearly 2,000 tickets still available for Saturday's game after USC turned twice that many back. But with so much on the line and UCLA offering some sort of discount -- not sure to whom -- for the $120 tickets, might be worth a call to the UCLA ticket office Monday morning . . . Just Sayin'.
*** With just two more chances possibly to see so many great Trojans in LA as college players for USC, it would seem well worth it to put up with the hassle of Rose Bowl parking for one more time for Leonard Williams, Hayes Pullard, Randall Telfer, Gerald Bowman, Andre Heidari and maybe Buck Allen and Nelson Agholor . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Now for some hoops here. Wish it weren't so but by far the most exciting thing to happen for Andy Enfield in the opening week of his second season was the signing of a pair of top 6-foot-10 prospects -- Benny Boatwright and Chimezie Metu -- to national letters of intent . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And yes, we know the young gun Trojans opened at home with an uninspiring 76-68 loss Saturday against Portland State and host Tennessee Tech, another 17-win team from a year ago, Monday night. But as much potential as there may be some day, that day is not this day or maybe any day this year if this team can't play halfcourt defense any better than it's shown in its exhibition and its opener . . . Just Sayin'.
*** With zero ability to guard college players in the halfcourt, it looked like one of those McDonald's All-American games where players just hope the other team misses so they can go down the floor and fire it up themselves. Not going to work in the Pac-12 and probably not in the preseason. The only way Portland State was in danger of a turnover was if one of the Vikings dribbled the ball off his own foot, which accounted for the unconscionable 23-4 differential in turnovers to USC's detriment . . . Just Sayin'.
*** The one redeeming quality for this USC team is its ability to play in transition and run the floor and score with the ball in the hands of point guard Jordan McLaughln. But do you go all out, run and press and transition for 40 minutes and play 10 guys and use your team speed and depth despite the ballhandling issues and work on halfcourt stuff in the offseason as you try to build some confidence and excitement -- and get some wins against teams not built to handle the pressure but will kill you in the halfcourt? . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Helping to answer that for Enfield might be the way this team has displayed no sign of being able to run a halfcourt offense, get a good shot, recognize a good shot or get anything for Nikola Jovanovic . . . Just Sayin'.
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