Biggest USC matchup in 2016? It's not 'Bama

Going head to head with the NFL in LA will be by far the Trojan program's top challenge this next year and beyond.

With the College Football Championship game tonight and the USC coaching staff supposed to be filled out by the end of a week culminating in all sorts of important visitors, it's easy to miss what might be the most impactful USC sports story of the week.

And no, we're not talking Wednesday's USC-UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion, as important as that will be for a USC 14-3 Trojans team now ahead of the 12-6 Bruins in the polls and all the NCAA bracket predictors.

Nope, it's not even directly a college football deal.

But when the NFL's special owners meeting in Houston Tuesday and Wednesday works its way through all the scenarios possible for the relocation of one or two of the three franchises clamoring to come to LA, life as USC football has known it since 1994 will be forever gone.

That's when the Rams and the Raiders skipped town, taking their combined 64 years of pro football with them, giving USC time to flop around a few more years and find itself. Toss in that one year the Chargers were here and that's 65 years of facing the pros here.

And now they all want back. But these won't be your old mom and pop NFL franchises borrowing the Coliseum that was primarily a college venue for Sundays.

They're coming with big plans -- and billions of dollars in stadium development plans. Next to them, USC's $270 million update of the Coliseum looks more like a basic repair job, which maybe it mostly is.

But with $3.61 billion in stadiums proposed for Inglewood and Carson, with owners looking to pocket $34.4 million apiece after the franchises moving to LA pay the $550 million fee for the privilege, with a guy like Disney Pres. Bob Iger heading the Chargers-Raiders moving project to Carson and Walmart heir Stan Kroenke (worth $7.6 billion) doing the development at Hollywood Park for his Rams, these guys aren't messing around.

Nor will the NFL be -- messing around that is. The league has been wanting a team here for years to justify locating a Super Bowl in weather- and media-friendly LA at least every fourth year.

And then they located the league's NFL.com media home here in Culver City. The NFL has a big investment in LA already and they're not going to screw it up.

So the 2016 season might be as important as any in USC history when it comes to the future of the program. USC will be trying to raise that $270 million. Will be trying to line up the seat license/private suite people who will be many of the same people that the NFL will be going after.

Win big and it won't matter. There will always be fans in front-running LA for a big national winner. Struggle, look like you don't know what you're doing and well -- fight the NFL for many of those fans.

Now let's face it. The Raiders, Chargers and Rams aren't exactly being run by winners. That's why they're trying to get out of where they are.

USC, despite it all, despite all the NCAA tried to do to the Trojans, despite the horrible coaching hires, despite the unfootball-player-friendly environment that all the bad decisions have brought, is actually in a batter place than the Rams, Raiders and Chargers.

Let's face it. The NFL has a lot of bad teams. It's like watching bad bowl games every Sunday. Who are these guys, you find yourself asking. It's a question the NFL will soon be bringing to LA.

Along with worse TV viewing each weekend, which when you think about it, is the same thing the Pac-12 is doing. So maybe that's a wash.

But let's be honest. There's a whole lot more riding on the Alabama game Sept. 3 in Texas than just bragging rights. If there are two new/old NFL teams calling LA home that weekend, what a way to tamp down the buzz with a win that has the town asking when the Trojans will be back.

Let Disney genius marketer Iger try to top that. He can't.

But USC is going to have to start getting this right. Just saw an estimate by the San Diego Union-Tribune that a single NFL team could expect up to $300 million in luxury suites and naming rights among other local benefits of coming to LA. No way USC should not have been able to tap into more of that money for the Coliseum once the Pete Carroll Era got going.

Only it didn't. Maybe that's the benefit of having USC Pres. Max Nikias named chairman of the College Football Playoffs Board Monday.

Just hanging out with those people at the top of the college football world these days, the people who spend $2.5 million to $3 million on football support staff people instead of on one athletic director, might be enlightening.

And most of those people are in places where there's no competition. No other big-time college program in the same town. And no NFL team anywhere near the state.

Even so, these guys compete like crazy. They play hard. And smart.

Even if they could get by with maybe a little less.

Not so for USC. If they want to remain USC, they have to be better than the best college programs -- and the NFL. It's really that simple.

They have no choice. For USC, it's do or -- if not die -- just barely survive. And that's not USC football.

Which is why Monday's announcement of Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator is so encouraging.

We'll know a lot about how that's going to go in the next year. Which is it, Trojans? Do you get your act together, from the very top on down, or do you just keep on keeping on and hoping something good happens.

"Hope On" is not the way to go here. We all know what is. Now we see if USC has the people in place, from the President to the Athletic Director to the Head Football Coach and all his staff, to compete at a level no college team has ever been asked to do.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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