Shotgun Spratling |

Just Sayin' . . . Week 1

USC is back, in the discussion anyway, even if it's as a double-digit 'dog. And that's a good place to start -- under a new coach with a new attitude..

Sure, you could do it another way and work yourself back gradually, quietly, hopefully over the next couple of seasons under the new man -- after the self-inflicted wounds of a pair of ill-advised head coaching hires and an overcompensated athletic director in way over his head -- all departed now.

Or you could open against defending national champion Alabama in the feature game of the biggest opening weekend in modern college football history.

We're Just Sayin' that USC, as it so often has, chose the latter.

*** And for all those who question the direction of one of college football's handful of  "blue blood" programs as it rebuilds itself after undeserved NCAA sanctions designed to re-write the Trojans history, this was an institutional decision as well. USC didn't have to take this game . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But through history, when the Michigans and Ohio States of the world wouldn't play Knute Rockne's newly-arrived Notre Dame back in the '20's, or Bear Bryant needed a game in Birmingham in 1970, the Trojans were there . . . Just Sayin'.     

*** Now it's Nick Saban playing the part of the Bear . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now it's up to these Trojans to find their own Sam Cunningham . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Clay Helton's "faith, family and footballI" has this new group of Trojans standing in for John McKay's "It's not the X's and O's but the Jimmy's and Joe's" as the new names in USC football history . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Whatever happens Saturday in Texas, it won't go unnoticed . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And that's the way USC football fans have always wanted it. Look at their response after so long left to fend for themselves, as they grabbed up the nearly 18,000 tickets set aside for this game in a heartbeat. They're saying they're back . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now for their Trojan team. What we're liking here is the way this team has not made this game about Alabama, as high-flying as the Tide may be these days. This is about USC being USC. That's plenty good enough . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But is it too soon? Sure Alabama has the most NFL-ready talent -- but USC is in the top five on that scale. And of course, Alabama has had the top recruiting ranking over the last five years, but on one "blue chip ratio" ranking for that same time, USC is tied with Ohio State at No. 2 despite the scholarship sanctions . . . Just Sayin'. 

*** So USC belongs in this game. It's USC, after all. Even the Alabama fans seem to -- at least this week -- be liking the fact that they're not playing Georgia State . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And unlike the standard for SEC teams, USC will Time Zone travel to play a football game it's not sure it will win . . . Just Sayin'.

*** No calculation here, just competition. That really has been the USC way. No backing into the BCS back in the day . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Now they've put together a schedule that's easily the nation's toughest and there's no debating that. So maybe the best way to get ready for three Top 10 opponents, six teams ranked in the top 28 and 11 bowl teams in all is by opening up with Alabama and having things get easier as they go . . . Just Sayin'.

*** As much as this is a challenge, it's also as big an opportunity as has almost ever come a USC team's way. One game. One win. They're back . . . Just Sayin.'

*** They won't be, of course. One game is just that. Remember that glorious 2009 trip to Columbus, Ohio and freshman Matt Barkley leading the Trojans to a comeback win in front of a stunned, silenced crowd of 106,033 in The Horseshoe. That Trojan team ended up in the Emerald Nut Bowl. The Buckeyes? They finished in the Rose Bowl, beating an Oregon team that crushed the Trojans . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But one game a week is all you have to show who you are. We pretty much know who Saban's Bama teams are. Now we get to see if Helton's belief that "iron sharpens iron" works here . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Because what matters more here is how USC comes back the next week in its home opener against Utah State and then the following week on the road in its Pac-12 opener against a rested Stanford coming off a bye week . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And then six days later on the road again -- thanks Pac-12 -- on a Friday night in Salt Lake City. That's what really matters . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And on and on and on through a final four of Oregon, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Who does that? Who closes with those four after opening with Alabama, Stanford and Utah away from LA? Who does? USC, that's who, the same team that will be in Texas Saturday to show the world it's back, even if at this time, in this season, even against an Alabama, whatever happens there will only be a small step of the way back to where USC aims to be . . . Just Sayin'.   

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at

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