Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

It's Notre Dame week . . . Just Sayin'

It's actually much more than Notre Dame week, but it starts with the Fighting Irish and then goes who knows where. What an interesting time to be a Trojan fan.

So many thoughts going through Trojan fans' heads this week but they'd better make sure they focus first on Saturday's Notre Dame game.

And when ever did we have to say that about a matchup against USC's historic archrival in any season finale?

But not a surprise in this most surprising of seasons.

How many were thinking in September the only way this week would matter would be for the Clay Helton survival watch. And now Clay is in the conversation with Colorado's Mike Macintyre for Pac-12 Coach of the Year -- if this week falls just right. And instead, what's happening here this week is the Brian Kelly watch -- at least for Notre Dame fans.

We're Just Sayin' some strange stuff is going on. Why would it stop now?

Let's talk.

*** Good break for USC that the Notre Dame game kicks off at 12:30 [on ABC] with Colorado-Utah not starting until the USC game is finishing up. Just the way we'd want it. Works for us. Make's it clear: Notre Dame comes first . . . Just Sayin'.

*** Right now for USC, only Notre Dame really matters. Get that wrong, forget to focus on a 4-7 Irish team with top talent and an inexplicably awful record, a team with only one way to make the pain of 2016 go away, and the USC football world will know real pain . . . Just Sayin'.

*** That it will be our last chance in LA to see Zach B. and Michael, Justin and Chad, Darreus and DeQuan, Isaac and Max, Stevie T. and Quinton, Leon and the other Zach {Smith] and probably Adoree' and JuJu, at the very least, makes it more of a "must" game . . .Just Sayin'.

*** These guys deserve to get themselves out of here on top after all they've gone through as Trojans. It's only right. But that doesn't get it done. It only happens if USC makes it happen . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And as we all know, there's more going on out there this week than Notre Dame as much as Clay would like that to be the case and he knows it. He's been watching those other Pac-12 TV games, as he said, "with one eye."  So we'll warn USC players to stop reading now. No way we want to mess with your focus on the Irish . . . Just Sayin'.

*** One eye we're using to watch things with right now is by looking at the polls, which do matter a bit as they set the template for the College Football Playoff rankings out tonight. And those do matter for a USC team that hopes, by winning out, it gets into the Top 10 where a New Year's Day bowl could await . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So how is it that a USC team, No. 12 in the AP Poll this week, is behind two teams it's beaten -- No. 6 Washington and No. 9 Colorado? OK, it's also ahead of two teams it lost to in September. And sure, it's easier to make the case that Sam Darnold & Co. are much more like the team that beat Colorado and Washington more recently than one that lost to Stanford and Utah way back when . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But that's not our call. However it is the call of our trusted college football media friends. So how do they see it? One of the voters, the Chattanooga Times Free Press' Patrick Brown, sees it through Cardinal glasses, elevating the Trojans to their highest AP Poll slot -- No. 5. At the other end, ESPN's Brett McMurphy was the lone person not to include USC in his AP Top 25 this week. Although he did have both UW and Colorado in at Nos. 6 and 9. So it wasn't anti-West Coast or Pac-12 bias that would seem to disqualify Brett, one of ESPN's "College Football Insiders," from a continuing vote. But this ballot would seem to . . . Just Sayin'.

*** So how did the West Coast guys vote USC? Well, the Orange County Register's Jeff Miller has USC at No. 7, considered an "extreme pick" by the College Poll Tracker site that chronicles these things, because it's five places from where USC ended up. At the other end, also labeled an "extreme pick," is the No. 18 spot that the Daily News' Scott Wolf had for USC, the lowest placing from a West Coaster. Michael Lev, former USC beat writer now in Tucson, and San Jose's Jon Wilner, have USC No. 11. The Seattle Times' Adam Jude has USC No. 10, five spots behind a Washington team USC beat in Seattle nine days ago. Go figure . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And yes, we've heard the talk that it's not a problem voting the Buffs above USC, a team they lost to in October, since CU could have easily won that 21-17 game. Nice talking point. It's just not true. We've said it before. If JuJu Smith-Schuster doesn't take a knee, that's a 28-17 USC win. And even that score wouldn't reflect what happened in the Coliseum that day when USC racked up 539 yards of offense against the acclaimed CU defense to Colorado's 371 yards in a game USC dominated in time of possession, third-down conversions and, unfortunately, fumbles, with four to CU's none. But it wasn't all that close. And even though he didn't start, CU QB Sefo Liufau did play . . . Just Sayin'.

*** How different all of this would be if the CFP would just go to an eight-team championship bracket. USC would probably be in -- at least by the end of this week -- with a win over Notre Dame. All they have to do here is get rid of the conference championship games which are going to be ugly affairs at best this year and use that week as the first playoff week. After all, there's a 16-team FCS playoff starting this week and that's not a problem for anyone . . . Just Sayin'.

*** All you do is take the five conference champs, something that would make the Pac-12, Big 12 and ACC happy every year and make every game important and make the regular season scheduling even more important, and then fill in with an Ohio State, not even in the Big Ten championship game, and you have room for a late-breaking team like USC. And with three open at-large spots, it would make the non-conference schedules big-time important as well. Works for me . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But back to this week's game. One question we have is how the Coliseum turf, as good as it's been all season, manages to bounce back from Sunday's Rams game in all-day rain. Going to test the USC/Coliseum grounds crew. Can't have a chewed-up field and make the Irish feel at home. Or a bad track to slow USC down . . . Just Sayin'.

*** And now for a quick look back to what will be a mostly forgettable UCLA game with the state of the Bruins program right now and a late-night, early-leaving crowd of 71,137 at the Rose Bowl. Not a game you can share with your family back in the Midwest on Eastern Time. They don't watch games kicking off at 10:30. But then who does? . . . Just Sayin'.

*** But that gets us to a gripe about the way this season has played out in the Pac-12, a place blessed with the most scenic venues by far in college football. And yet if you're a USC fan, you get to see the iconic Rose Bowl and Lake Washington from Husky Stadium and the Wasatch Range from Utah's Rice-Eccles and even The Farm at Stanford mostly or exclusively after dark, when you can't tell if there's a lake or a mountain anywhere in sight. And the only day game on the road was at Arizona where the on-field temperature was 137 degrees and half the stadium was uninhabitable . . . Just Sayin;.  

 *** Just imagine where the Rose Bowl would be in the pantheon of great American sporting events had they chosen to play the game at night. How many people in the rest of the country would have that special feeling for it they have now. Only they were smart, something no one will ever accuse the Pac-12 of. So here's the deal for USC. Since every other year, it looks like the regular season game there could be a late-night affair, the only way to get to the Arroyo Seco and appreciate its beauty and grandeur is to do so in January so why not start with Jan. 2 this season . . . Just Sayin'.

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

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