USC finding a bowl, and maybe a personality?

We're "Just Sayin' " that we have no certainty where the Trojans will go bowling but we're pretty sure how we'd like to see them play when they get there.

The Trojans will be back at practice Friday morning before they know exactly where they're going and who they're going to play. But that won't keep us from talking about it.

Just check out the pigskin pundits who at last count have USC going to the Alamo, Holiday and Foster Farms bowls but not the Sun Bowl. So you have to like that. As for opponents, the list starts with what seems an awfully upscale hope like Wisconsin to more reasonable Nebraska and downscale Minnesota, Maryland, Penn State and . . . ughh . . . Rutgers.

There you have it, the midsection of the Big Ten, newest members and all. So can we talk about this? We're "Just Sayin'."

*** But we'll get back to the bowl talk later. How about talking about this USC team, as everyone from 710's Steve Mason to Steve Sarkisian seems to want to do. We'll say this, if you haven't read it here, USC fan Mason put a lot of thought into his missive to Trojan fans. Agree mostly with his upbeat look at the future possibilities, don't agree with his playing up the scholarship deficiencies as the main cause of this team's problems . . . Just Sayin'.

*** You can be OK with 8-4 but this was a 10-2 team at worst and the inability to navigate the numbers with the newbie staff at practice, the in-game indecision and end-game fear of attacking, those were not, or should not have been, a result of having too few players. They were the result of thinking you had too few players and deciding to play it safe too often with the ones you had instead of playing to their talents . . . Just Sayin'.

*** When it comes to having an identity and taking on the personality of the head coach, as Sark talked about after the Notre Dame romp, we couldn't agree more. That it took 12 months, as Sark also said, for that to happen, we don't agree. How long did it take in October of 2013 to swing away from Lane Kiffin to Ed Orgeron? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That this USC's team's personality has to be "playing with a chip on its shoulder . . . hard-nosed and tough-xxx," and from that, there will be no wavering, as Sark said, we agree strongly. But hasn't that been USC's profile for success ever since Howard Jones passed it along to John McKay before Pete Carroll reworked it a bit in his own image. It's not a difficult concept to understand, just not so easy to do . . . Just Sayin'.

*** The two archrival games to end the season makes that clear. USC went into Notre Dame week confident and clear in its ability to inflict its will on the Irish and did just that. USC attacked -- on both sides of the ball -- and didn't let up. Numbers were irrelevant to the discussion. USC would let its talent on the field decide how this would one would go. How'd that turn out? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Making the point even more happened the week before. The Bruins didn't have more players they could play, didn't have faster or stronger or more talented ones, although it looked like it the way the matchups played out that day at the Rose Bowl. USC had the bad matchups in that lay-down gameplan that didn't play into what USC athletes can do and how UCLA might try to stop that and then what else USC would do next. Defensive gameplans don't win games for USC -- never have, never will . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Don't think so? Just check out USC and UCLA's other 11 games. We'd give USC the slight edge there. The timid, unfocused gameplan made the difference. The confident team won. The unfocused, hesitant team gave up LA for a third straight season . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Lesson learned? Sark said it has been. And pointed to the aggressive Notre Dame game approach -- although maybe not in so many words. He said it takes 12 months for a coach's personality to be infused into his players. Not sure we agree with that. But we do agree that it took a while for Sark to say he'd found exactly who he was and how he has to coach at USC while navigating numbers no one else must face. We think that was something of an artificial hurdle -- USC lined up more athletes who could play by far than Notre Dame had Saturday -- but a real one, nonetheless, especially for coaches mostly dealing with it the first time . . . Just Sayin'.

*** One way of dealing with it -- in Sark's own words -- was a clear, focused, attacking gameplan where the coach and the quarterback were on the same page and using all their weapons. Did the playcalling scenario change here? A number of players say it did and Sark certainly couldn't credit Clay Helton enough for making it happen on every level afterwards . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Do we think Sark and Clay, who will continue to have other opportunities but loves it at USC for all sorts of reasons, have come to an understanding as to how the offense and the offensive coordinator will work going forward that will keep Clay here and that showed up in the Notre Dame game? We do . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Do we also hear, from folks who have the ability and opportunity to talk to folks who know if it could be a reality, that CEO is a possibility to return? We do . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Do we think that the gameplan on defense, and the execution in the Notre Dame game showed progress in the right direction and together were a 180 from a week earlier? We do . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We also agree with Sark when he says players come to USC to win championships? We think that has to apply to coaches, too. The players USC recruits, whatever the numbers, demand the absolute best in championship coaching. You can't coach them from a defensive crouch. They have to be turned loose to attack and make plays and if they go down for whatever reason, they go down playing all out. But not because of timidity. Or fear of failure. Or inability to defend the option. Or doubts they can protect their own quarterback. Or get to the other team's. Not here. Not at USC . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now back to the bowls. Of all the criteria on our wish list, getting a matchup with highest-ranked opponent -- the team that can do the Trojans the most good and focus their attention with the most urgency for the next three or four weeks -- would top the list . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Not sure who that opponent would be right now since we don't know how the rest of the conferences will fall out. But that's our pick: the biggest challenge. We'd love Wisconsin, of course, but probably won't be lucky enough to get the Badgers . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We'd even take a return to Las Vegas if it got USC a better game. Last year couldn't have been a better event or better timing, TV, host city and an opponent USC really got up for in a Derek Carr-led Fresno State for win No. 10 . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We've been told by the Holiday Bowl committee guys they're recommending USC. Nebraska would be nice there. And as bad as playing on the Levi's Stadium turf -- now on its fifth field installation this year -- staying in California for the holidays isn't all bad. Although going to the Alamo Bowl, while UCLA goes to Vegas, might be fun just to see the fumes arising from Westwood . . . Just Sayin'.

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