Good feelings, bad words: We're Just Sayin'

Talking about what we know now for this Trojans program that's not as bad off as some say it is but not nearly in as good a shape as many inside the program say either . . . Just Sayin'.

Just a few more days of gloom and doom in a news vacuum that is the USC football program right now. The new/old USC coaching staff will be in place soon enough and there will be specifics at last to talk about, not the speculation that the critics now take as absolute fact.

Clancy Pendergast turned USC down, they say, but maybe now he will, or maybe he won't, reconsider coming here as defensive coordinator. Either way, it's proof, the critics say, that he really would rather be in the NFL. Not that anyone knows any of that. But read the posts here and it's now accepted wisdom.

*** So before getting into the substance of where USC football is right now, and where it's headed under Clay Helton, let's agree on this. We don't know everything. We can't make the call -- like Pac-12 officials are inclined to do -- before the play happens. As tough as it may be to hold our fire, there are times we have to let it play out. We can say what we want, what we expect, but not what we know for a fact and how we know that it will be the end of USC football as we know it. It's not. Not yet. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But here is what we do know. We know it's time for Clay to stop talking about USC's "talent" and how that "talent" correlates to a bright immediate future. It didn't correlate to a bright immediate past in a six-loss season that saw the Trojans' "talent" ranked as high as No. 6 and clear favorites at home over a staggered Stanford team coming off a six-point offensive effort in an opening loss at Northwestern. With a chance to put a stake in Stanford's heart, the Trojans "talent" showed up unfocused, unprepared, un-physical and out of luck as they resurrected the season for the folks from The Farm and headed down a path that saw the Trojans essentially regress despite all that young "talent." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We do think we can say the makeup of the coaching staff will be an interesting and surprising mix of the old and the new -- and provide plenty of fodder for both the "sunshine pumpers" and the "gloom and doomers." . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But there will be plenty of time to talk about the new staff when it's in place. Right now there's this. No matter who comes in to coach, we know next season will offer USC probably the nation's toughest schedule -- and yet a chance for the Trojans to get it right. Which is all you can ask for -- a chance. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Let's start here. Even if Clay doesn't get it right and there's no more improvement than we saw this season -- which was none, really, when balanced against the regression in so many places -- USC still should win the Pac-12 South. Maybe going away this time. Only Colorado will be better. UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah are on a downward arc. Last season was their shot . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Sure, games at Stanford and Washington won't be easy. But Palo Alto isn't all that tough a place to play against a Stanford team with Christian McCaffrey and a brand new supporting cast. And maybe this season, a low-talent U-Dub team won't be allowed to dictate how this one plays out. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Then there's Oregon. Anybody catch the Ducks without Vernon Adams in the second half at the Alamo Bowl. Well, they'll be without Vernon for the entire season in 2016. And they come to the Coliseum. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So to review what we know thus far. Even a running-in-place USC program that tolerates overweight and under-prepared offensive linemen, that plays "grab-bag" on offense, going from here to there to nowhere or everywhere in its play-calling, that allows a drive-killing, win-it-in-the-trenches-philosophy-destroying seven tackles for loss a game, should have a shot in the Pac-12 no matter what -- and it has to be better than that. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But what about Alabama, you ask. They'll murder USC in the opener, won't they? Sure, this Alabama team would. Only this Alabama team will be mostly in the NFL. And if the Saban/Kiffin coaching combo left behind after the departure of many from Tide-land does one thing not so well, it's coach up young, unproven, not-up-to-Bama-speed talent until they earn their coaches' confidence. It's not impossible to create a scenario where this opening game works for USC -- especially as an offseason motivator for a Trojan team that's been feeling way too good about itself for way too long. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** We'll probably know much more well before next September as we see how much the offseason strength and conditioning program impacts a USC team that badly needs a kick in the rear here. This team needs explosiveness, flexibility, strength and toughness. And the confidence that comes from obvious improvements in all those areas. We'll see. It's not a secret what has to happen here. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But it has to happen. Stop talking, start doing. Look at what happened at Oregon, at the Pac-12 Championship Game against Stanford and against Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl and say never again. That's not USC football. We're not happy about anything that happened there. The game plans were awful. The game prep even worse. And the game execution way below any standard of USC football. . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But the thing that came up most unacceptable for many of us watching the three losses in the final four games was the way the Trojans didn't seem to lose their way-too-good feeling about themselves. . . . Just Sayin'.

***We're still a really good team, they would say. We'll be fine. We'll fix this. No problems, mate. If things were all that bad, why wouldn't we be going harder to get ready for our bowl game? Hey, as long as we come in with fresh legs, we'll be fine. We're good here. Let Wisconsin work hard and hit and take a chance on not having fresh legs. That's their thing. "Talent" is our thing. We have plenty of it. That's what everyone says. . . . Just Sayin'.

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