Shotgun Spratling |

Just Sayin' . . . Bye Week

Time for the Trojans to catch their breath a bit and get their second wind for the five-game sprint to the finish.

Sure, USC is in that "if only" place.

If only the Trojans had made a single additional play against Utah -- on offense or defense. If only they'd have realized Stanford wasn't all that good and showed up appropriately prepared. If only they'd have started Sam Darnold in Game 1 and won Games 3 and 4 (Stanford and Utah) as a result. If only Clay Helton & Co. weren't rookies as they try to right a USC program so mishandled in so many ways in recent years.

If only they'd done all, or any one, of those.

If only they were 6-1, as they probably should be, or at least would be, if they had a chance to play their first two Pac-12 games again and as a result ranked in the Top 10, as they would be, setting up, if the next two games are handled as they should be, a monumental showdown in Seattle.  

*** But of course, they can't do any of that. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression . . . Just Sayin;.

*** The second impression USC has been making in winning the last three Pac-12 South games isn't bad but it could be too late to matter . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Unless, of course, USC can win the rest of the way out. And we mean the rest of the way since the only game that will indicate that this USC team has made significant progress -- and we mean significant -- is the Washington game. It's a must . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Which is why the better the unbeaten Huskies play, the tougher that game is, the better it is for USC. It's a one-stop return to where some thought USC could be when this season started . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Because obviously the wins over ranked-at-the-time Arizona State and Colorado have made absolutely no impression on the folks who vote in the national polls. Look where Colorado, which was only in the USC game on the scoreboard thanks to the Trojans' generosity, and Arizona State, which was never in a game where USC could have named the score, stand in this week's polls vis-a-vis USC. It's like they didn't play USC, that that game has gone down the old memory hole . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Colorado, you ask? Well, in this week's AP Poll, Colorado is No. 26 in the nation with 110 points, way above No. 35 USC, which has just five points, one fewer than No. 34 Arizona State . . . Just Sayin'.

*** What about the coaches, you say? They're worse. USC is tied for No. 38 there, with an ASU team that didn't belong on the field with the Trojans and with its mere six points, USC is way behind No. 26 Colorado's 121  not to mention trailing the likes of South Florida, Washington State, Memphis, San Diego State, Troy (no, really, the other Troy, the one in Alabama) . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So as much as it will outrage the defenders of the position that there was one and only one play for JuJu Smith-Schuster to make at the end of the Colorado game and that was to pass up the final score that would make that game 28-17 for fear of USC getting beat by giving up a blocked extra point and return, a kickoff return TD, a lost onside kick and a Hail Mary or long field goal, all in the final 1:15, maybe it would have been better for JuJu to make that game an 11-point USC win (still not reflectiive of USC"s dominance). Maybe that would have helped the national consciousness impressing on folks that USC not only won that game but kind of dominated it. Not that JuJu could have possibly known how this might play out but . . . Just Sayin'.

*** With struggling Cal and Oregon at home the next two games after this weekend off, the Trojans will still get the chance to go into Seattle with the momentum of a five-game win streak if they take care of business the way they should . . . Just Sayin'

*** In addition to what the dynamic Darnold, owner of the nation's No. 1 QBR rating over No. 2 Lamar Jackson of Louisville, No. 3 Jake Browning of Washington and No. 4 Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma after just four starts, has done to energize the USC offense, there's an offensive line that's doing more combo/power blocking with narrower splits as it plays to its strengths and a defense that's playing more people and didn't seem to fatigue a bit from the heat in Tucson even if Arizona didn't present much of a challenge with its rookie QB. The heat still did . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Both of those improvements you have to credit to a maturing Clay Helton, who is learning on the job and doing so quickly. We'll soon find out whether that's quick enough and he's learned enough . . . Just Sayin'.  

 *** The bye week is always a challenge. And there are no easy answers about the way to go. USC will try to bring on more of the next-tier guys in practice who haven't quite gotten into the rotation ala Pete Carroll's bye week approach. But that will just be for the next two days. Thursday has gone from a practice day to a recruiting day for the coaches who will also be out Friday. Reflects a more aggressive recruiting presence for a program that maybe could use it right now as it rebounds back up . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Which is the key here -- an in-season rebound in the right direction. For that, someone should get credit, same as they got the blame for the embarrassing 1-3 start. This team did not bail. These players did not start playing for themselves. And that matters . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Think that doesn't matter. Check out UCLA and Notre Dame, or Texas, Oregon and Georgia, power programs with impressive preseason hopes and coaches in place for enough time for this year not to be happening the way it's playing out for them. But it is. And yet, as much as it flies in the face of "the-sky-is-falling" folks, the bottom hasn't dropped out here the way it certainly could have . . . Just Sayin'.

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