As we noted Monday, and as a number of national pundits have been saying since before the spring, USC football could have a breakout year in Season 2 of the Steve Sarkisian Era.
Not coincidentally, it's also Season 1 of the Post-NCAA-Sanctions Era. Both obviously matter here. And in our first part of this week's "what if" scenarios, good and bad, we pointed all of those ways that could work in USC's favor.
But as we know, there are no givens in sports. And the things that can trend up can also trend down IF what USC fans hope will happen doesn't. And that can often times happen in the same game as we saw in 2014 (Arizona State, Utah), and certainly in the same season (UCLA, Notre Dame).
Now for the potential negatives, the list of what happens IF we don't see what we think USC fans are hoping for that could have us all saying "wait until next year" one more time.
Here we go: the 2015 season will not be the one USC fans are hoping for IF:
*** IF the freshman class plays like it's made up of freshmen. They, or at least a key number of them, have to step up.
*** IF the numbers don't work against this schedule as much as it looks like they could.
*** IF with all the talent and numbers at the linebacker spot, no one steps up to play the Hayes Pullard leadership role.
*** IF this team, players through coaches, is just a tad too young, a bit too unseasoned and not quite there yet.
*** IF the trip to the Sun Devil desert is a trip too far or the game a minute too long -- again.
*** IF Jim Mora is still inside USC's head, and gameplan, once again.
*** IF Mora can say with impunity what he said this week about USC as quoted by ESPN: "We've had some disappointing games against Stanford, and two of them have come right after we've beaten USC. That's a horrible excuse for having a bad game. To me, that's an indicator that they were coming off a high of beating USC. That's not OK. We have to find a way to be a little more even-keeled emotionally so that when we beat USC, we can come back the next week and play a tough Stanford team and still play with emotion."
*** IF Mora never has to explain that his ". . . when we beat USC" statement was limited to the past, not a prediction.
*** IF the numbers at running back also aren't enough.
*** IF Leonard Williams is irreplaceable.
*** IF Nelson Agholor is just as much a talent as BLW without immediate replacement.
*** IF all of USC's playmakers on both sides of the ball aren't freed up to make plays that win football games.
*** IF USC needs a single first down at the end of a game (ASU, Utah) for a win with the ball in an opponent's territory, even deep in its opponent's territory, and can't get it -- even when it's third and 2.
*** IF USC tries to trick 'em more than it just tries to beat 'em down.
*** IF last season's losses aren't lessons learned and never to be forgotten.
*** IF USC cannot run the ball when and where it wants.
*** IF this USC offensive line can't manhandle Pac-12 defensive fronts.
*** IF there's just not enough Adoree to go around.
*** IF USC can't kick it the way it has to in order to win that one game it needs to at the wire.
*** IF there's any sense that when the big play comes USC's way, it will come via the genius play call rather than the big-time player stepping up to make a play.
*** IF the defensive philosophy is to try to hang in there and hope the other team takes itself out of the game rather than taking opponents out of games with smart and aggressive attacking.
*** IF there's any sense anywhere on this team that it needs more time, that it's maybe just not ready.
*** IF this team doesn't get better by leaps and bounds as the weeks go by so that when it's time for UCLA and Oregon in back-to-back games, this is nothing like the USC team from Weeks 1 and 2.
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