And so after two months, we head -- at last -- into a weekend where a USC football game means something to more than Trojans coaches, players and fans and the team they're playing.
USC is almost relevant again. And almost ranked, but more about that later. And back from its self-inflicted 1-3 exile. Amazing what a five-game win streak will do for you -- no matter who you're playing.
It's Washington Week and a 6-3 USC is the invited guest as the unbeaten and fourth-ranked Huskies [9-0] try to hold on to the Pac-12's lone College Football Playoff hope and the millions of dollars that would bring the league.
We can only hope that's not the focus and fixation of the league's officiating crew in Husky Stadium. Because a Pac-12 officiating crew that's both focused and fixated on anything could be a scary proposition. We're Just Sayin' here.
*** And of course we have no idea where USC comes down on this. Is it the Trojan team of two penalties in beating Colorado or the careless, unfocused, undisciplined one that committed 34 penalties the next three games including 13 each of the last two games? . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And as efficient and machine-like as Washington has mostly looked this season, we really do not know for absolute certain just how good the Huskies are considering the way their schedule has played out [Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State] and getting Stanford after the fall. Take away USC's three turnovers in Sam Darnold's first start at Utah and the Trojans certainly played the Utes as well, better actually, than UW did . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But the view from USC is too often skewed by one's feelings on Chris Petersen's hiring in Seattle right after Sark skedaddled out of town after somehow Svengali'ing his way back to Troy, providing one more piece of proof that USC's leaders helped keep the Trojans down as much as the NCAA did . . . Just Sayin'.
*** That alone should be motivation enough for showing up mad at Husky Stadium -- if last year's loss at the coliseum isn't . . . Just Sayin'.
*** On a neutral field, this game would be tougher to handicap and a lot closer. The 7.5-8.0 Vegas spot for the Huskies seems about right . . . Just Sayin'.
*** What doesn't seem right here is that USC remains unranked -- OK, 26th -- in both the AP and Coaches polls. That's just stupid and proof the voters aren't paying attention and don't know much . . . but we repeat ourselves . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Give ESPN credit here. Their football experts have USC No. 12 in their Football Power Index rankings and that's about right, just ahead of No. 13 Colorado . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Here's how ESPN's rankings go: 1) Alabama, 2 Michigan, 3) Louisville, 4) Ohio State, 5) Clemson, 6) Washington, 7) Auburn, 8) LSU, 9) Florida State, 10) Texas A&M, 11) Oklahoma and 12 USC. We're good to go with everybody there but Texas A&M . . . Just Sayin'.
*** We know this, no way Colorado should be 10 or 11 spots ahead of USC. And moving up five places after that awful exhibition against UCLA . . . Just Sayin'.
*** One way to make an educated guess about this is to take a look at this week's Top 25 and see how many teams USC would be favored against at a neutral site. We'd say 13 counting Utah, a game USC would be favored in the second time around. Here's our list: West Virginia, Penn State, Utah, Western Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Florida, Washington State, Boise State and Baylor -- BAYLOR. We didn't include LSU and Florida State although we know which way we'd go against those teams right now . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And we can hear some saying: Who cares about the rankings? So what? Here's what. It determines TV slotting, where your game is and what time among other things, not to mention the CFB rankings are the final Pac-12 tie-breaker . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Still blown away by this stat. Sam has thrown the ball 215 times this season with 146 completions (67.9 percent) compared to Washington's Heisman candidate Jake Browning's 149 for 220 (67.7) but that's not the stat that jumps out here for the No. 1 QBR-ranked quarterback Browning against No. 7 Darnold. What's eye-popping is that on his 215 pass attempts, Darnold has been sacked just three times. On almost the same number of drop-backs, Browning has been sacked 15 times. Amazing stuff for USC's redshirt freshman . . . Just Sayin'.
*** So now about Saturday. "How are we gonna' do?" someone asked Monday. Well, this might be the time for this USC team to go back and be that old USC, a team that lines up and brings it to you with speed and power on the ground and then when you're forced to come up and play the run, hits you with the pass. Which is why for these road games against big fired-up crowds, we favor pounding it at the home team and taking the crowd out of it. Make them say to themselves, "Aw man, that looks like USC out there. This is going to be a long night." . . . Just Sayin'.
*** That's not the end of it. Last Saturday was a good example of how to do it on defense. USC started Oregon with three straight three-and-outs doing what Clancy P. likes to do -- take away a team's strength. And do it in a way they haven't seen and will have to adjust to. And give up no explosive plays. Not so easy to do against the efficient and explosive Huskies. But for USC to get back to being USC two months after this team was as far from USC as it's possible to be, this is what you do . . . Just Sayin'.
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