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Just Askin' . . . January question time

Barely more than three weeks since the Rose Bowl and we're already wondering when spring football starts. Can it get here soon enough?

Usually we're just saying stuff here. Talking about this and that. But today we're going for a little "question time" for USC football.

No need to come up with all the answers at the end of January. You'd better know what the questions are, however.

So here we go . . . Just Askin'.

*** Did you know that Sports Betting Dime has 45/1 odds for USC to win the national championship in 2017? After finishing the season ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll and Sam Darnold coming back those odds seem a little long. Should the P pool some money together and make a bet? The winnings could go towards one of those fancy new luxury boxes proposed in the Coliseum renovation. . . . Just Askin'. (UPDATE: We apologize, this 45/1 was for 2016, USC should have much better odds in 2017).

*** So exactly when does spring football get here? With two dozen or so talented freshmen, redshirts and Scout team guys who really could find their way into the two-deep, has USC in recent years ever had a more wide-open roster -- when you look at the numbers and the amount of opportunity -- than the one that exists this spring? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And as much fun as it should be to see how this works out for defensive position groups like Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy on the edge on defense or Jordan Iosefa and John Houston inside or Jack Jones, Pie Young and Jamel Cook in the secondary, isn't it up front where it matters the most and where Kenny Bigelow, Jacob Daniel, Christian Rector and Liam Jimmons will get the chance to fight it out with holdovers Josh Fatu and Malik Dorton? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Ditto for the offense where as much interest as there will be in whether Vavae Malepeai can make a place for himself in the running back corps or Cary Angeline among the tight ends or even how the new wide receivers shake out when Michael Pittman, Josh Imatrobhebhe, Tyler Vaughns, Trevon Sidney and hybrid Velus Jones go at it, won't the real action be up front the same as on defense? Doesn't the competition for Roy Hemsley, Nathan Smith, Clayton Johnston and Cole Smith to step up when they get their chance to push their way into the two-deep matter more? . . . Just Askin'.

*** But while we're waiting, are the Trojan recruiting bridge-jumpers having second thoughts right about now -- on both how USC is recruiting and whether they themselves should reconsider taking the plunge just yet? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Are Clay Helton & Co. making another late comeback? And were some of the doom-sayers the same folks who left the Rose Bowl with five minutes to go? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And as much as we said a year ago this time that USC didn't absolutely have to have a true freshman come in and play major minutes the way it did for all those scholarship-deprived seasons and that turned out to be the case, isn't that even more the case this season with the two dozen Trojans who have been waiting their chance already in line ahead of them? . . . Just Askin'.

*** But as we look ahead, shouldn't USC fans get themselves ready for all the good news -- and there will be plenty of it coming the way of USC football for the next seven months or so? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Although when it comes to the good news looking ahead, wouldn't you rather hear from a large group of AP Poll voters that USC will be the No. 2 team going into the 2017 season rather than the Vegas oddsmakers saying Sam Darnold is one of the top four Heisman Trophy favorites? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And whether the bettors break the Heisman down like that or not, Sam probably has the inside track on it for the one reason that matters more than anything -- or should matter -- even if it didn't this season when Louisville's Lamar Jackson won it. Shouldn't it really be as much about the way the team performs since this is pretty much a quarterback/running back award now? . . . Just Askin'. 

*** So our question here is if the AP voters are correct and USC manages to finish No. 2, don't you have to like Sam's chances? . . . Just Askin'.

*** But even more important, isn't this a question you'd rather wait until Week 12 the way it happened for the last South Orange County quarterback to win the Heisman -- Carson Palmer -- whose Notre Dame game at the end swung it for him after starting out . . . well, nowhere in the race? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And shouldn't we follow our own advice here and not go overboard on the Heisman talk 10 months ahead of time even the speculation gets clicks, fires everybody up and USC has a legitimate candidate once again? . . . Just Askin'.  

*** So does that bye in the final week of USC's season, while it could help the Trojans get ready for a championship game the next weekend, hurt a Heisman candidate -- or will the votes be in already? And does it, or should it, matter? . . . Just Askin'.

*** But it's not all about USC. How do you like the way Jim Harbaugh, after having been told by the NCAA there's no more taking his Michigan team to Florida for spring ball after this year, is now planning to take the Wolverines to Rome for spring break to study and work out in Italy? Whether you think he's crazy or not, don't you just have to love it that there's someone tweaking the stuffed-shirt phonies in Indy? . . . Just Askin'.

*** Talking about the NCAA, how about a proposal the NCAA may soon be considering that is so smart it has amazed observers that the NCAA is talking about it: How in future years, college football teams will have a 14-week season guaranteeing two bye weeks -- to play 12 games instead of the current 13. Did the NCAA -- or someone hanging out there -- actually get something right? Sure, it would mean teams would start earlier in the summer but aren't they working out at the end of July anyway? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And who knows, would a 14-week season not make it harder for the Pac-12 to screw it up? Or make it easier by giving the Pac-12 more chances to get it wrong? . . . Just Askin'.

*** And finally, it's not all about football here as we wonder whether Wednesday's hoops visit by UCLA will be as much of a talent mismatch as Bruin fans are hoping for with a team that's had three players named Pac-12 Player of the Week four times this season to USC's mere one? Or will UCLA's run-the-floor style get USC going the one way the athletic Trojans can beat a good team and make an over-under of 180 realistic in the kind of old-fashioned shootout that can make college basketball so much fun to watch? . . . Just Askin'.    

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

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