No, no, no . . . Idaho

No one's kidding anyone here: This game is about USC and playing up to the standards these Trojans have set for themselves.

And so it happened. As many thought it would.

Steve Sarkisian made it through Thursday's postpractice media scrum -- and the entire week preceding it -- without uttering this single word that -- "quite honestly" in Sarkspeak -- people were offering over/unders of 0.5 on the number of times he'd say it.

The word was "Idaho."

The under -- zero -- won. Not a single time did the name of Saturday's Sun Belt opponent (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) escape Sark's lips.

Not even when he was given the chance with a specific question about how an opponent like the Vandals -- although without using their nickname -- could be good for a young team like USC playing so many freshmen.

Sark wasn't going there. Not talking about a team that lost its home opener 45-28 against MAC-team Ohio U. Not talking about a team that has a legitimate shot once again to occupy one of the bottom five spots among the nation's 128 FBS football programs.

And maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Sark has preached that USC's opponents, whoever they are, no matter how good they are, should be "faceless." He's said it a number of times. Now in Idaho's case, they're nameless too.

That's not a slight, just a reality-based assessment of where things stand after a game-week-finishing closed-to-the-media morning practice of less than 90 minutes in helmets, no pads and shorts.

Just a few points to finish up on in a week where Sark said, as a coach, you expect to have the most improvement - between Game 1 and Game 2. And with a young team that played 13 true freshmen last week, it's even more important.

Sark talked of players like Porter Gustin, who plays physical, sets the edge, rushes the passer and from whom he expects "to see a drastic improvement." No more overthinking for the RUSH end out there.

The same for safety Marvell Tell, the nearly 6-3, 190-pound talent who Sark expects "to just let it rip and go out and play."

How many other freshmen is the question. Sark said there is "one for sure, maybe another" freshman they're going to have to make a decision on as a staff and he didn't want to names until they do.

The logical picks to be decided there would be John Houston, at the backup SAM linebacker spot behind a Su'a Cravens, who is almost certain to leave after this season. If the 6-3, 220-pound Houston is the heir apparent, despite the presence of Quinton Powell and Uchenna Nwosu, does he not need game action this season?

Then there's the secondary duo of Ykili Ross and Isaiah Langley. Both looking good and making plays on the Scout team. Both good enough not to redshirt. Which way for them considering Kevon Seymour the lone DB leaving after this season, you'd think.

As to the second-year guys, Sark had good words for the versatility of both Jalen Greene and Toa Lobendahn.

And as much as it may be a good thing to get the talented sophomore Lobendahn, the son of a football coach and the kid with the high football IQ, settled in at right guard, but if the need arises, Toa is USC's O-line insurance policy, Sark said. And will remain so.

As for the quarteback-turned-wide-receiver Greene, who threw and completed his first-ever college pass as a lefty wide receiver on a throwback to Dominic Davis against Arkansas State, don't expect that to change.

"There are wrinkles we can have for him," Sark said of the redshirt freshman with "a high football IQ . . . who can play every wide receiver position . . . he's a weapon for us."

And when this year is finished, there will be some discussions with him about whether he might consider going back to quarterback. But if he does, he'll have that first pass completion and whatever is to follow this year, on his resume.

"I've been impressed with Jalen," Sark said.

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