2. In a close second, at least for me this year, my interest is piqued with the coming page-turner offered up by our young offensive gurus, Sark & Kiffin. Sports writers are calling this a lose-lose for these young men, using the logic that if the offense falters they get the blame and if it performs at the level that mentor Dr. Chow had it, well it's all his players and genius. My question is… what will be written when the offense is even better than it's ever been before, because I think that's going to be the end result.
3. It's hard to imagine that Matt Leinart could be any more "fun" than he's been for Trojan fans, but with a fixed elbow, more conditioning than ever and a major ramp-up in play calling power, this could be the story of the season. If things go as planned for our young General, he will finish his career as one of the greatest college quarterbacks to ever play the game.
4. In compliment to our Heisman winner, comes the kid I've been waiting to see under center since he was just a teenager: John David Booty was projected as the Trojans' starter weeks before he ever donned the Cardinal and Gold. Injuries and brilliant play by a certain upperclassman has postponed the inevitable, but it should be clear that Booty will be getting serious playing time in every game this season and be ready to take the reigns when his predecessor moves on to bigger (but not better) things.
5. The Trojan linebackers: both the incumbents and incoming freshmen have me smiling so much it hurts. The image of Keith Rivers launching himself into opponent backfields, Oscar Lua/Thomas Williams/Ryan Powdrell destroying anyone within reach, Dallas Sartz using his two National Championship winning ways to lead his Trojan charges on a march to, yet another notch on his belt at the 2006 Rosebowl, is almost too much to ask for – at least for this spoiled kid. Add the freshmen backers and I can hardly breathe.
6. This is an exciting little number – will Fresno State put up the fight of the century against our USC Trojans? People are saying this is the most talented Bulldog squad in memory and Lord knows Pat Hill, like a back alley pugilist, wants to take on all comers, but does he have the knockout power to put USC on the canvas? Don't think so, but this could be one of the most highly anticipated games of the year – much like Cal was last season. Everyone's going to want to see if the Champ can survive yet another contender. Luckily for Troy this game is at home and, not that we need the extra help but Fresno plays Boise State the week prior. This means they come out reeling, either way.
7. There are so many more, I feel like Charlie in Mr. Wonka's chocolate factory but the one that I've saved to open from the family last is stuffed away, way in the back…A third National Championship. On our home court of the Rosebowl, where the USC Trojans have more victories than any other, we just might get to add another. And that other would be bigger than all the rest because it will include the footnote which states: "Three Consecutive National Championships – Never before accomplished by any team in college football history." I like that.
Okay, I'm done opening up the folks' gifts, time to move on to my extended family:
1. I don't know about anyone else but now with so many new Trojans tearing up the NFL, I am a sudden fan of nearly every team. The team who has me already donning gear, however is… the USC, er Detroit Lions. With Cody, Williams and Killeen (if I'm forgetting anyone, pinch me) this team is my new NFL fave. That's not easy, considering I wear my Bengal stripes like religion on Sundays ever since a certain Trojan quarterback went under center. And I'm excited to read about Pro-bowler Troy Polamalu, as well as wide out Keary Colbert. Heck, I'm even interested in seeing how Gregg Guenther's career continues. The other kid that has already done more than most expected (except for himself) is perennial backup to two Heisman winners, Matt Cassell. Seeing him even wearing a pro uniform is clearly one of the greatest gifts any Trojan could receive.
2. Matt Grootegoed and Alex Holmes: two of my all-time favorites are trying to do the impossible – get a roster spot as Free Agents. I can't wish them and all of their Trojan peers more good will in this effort. In fact, before I set this present aside and move on to the next, I think I'll say a little prayer for our boys. Please feel free to say your own.
3. Norm Chow in his new capacity as Tennessee Titans Offensive Coordinator gives me goosebumps. I really believe he will become the benchmark of brilliance for NFL offenses the way he did in the college world. I then hope he finally gets offered the perfect college head coaching job he's always wanted. Honestly, though, I long have felt that being the OC of an NFL team was his final calling, so we'll see how this world turns. (Like the batteries needed to operate that new toy, I firmly insert Coaches Smith and Davis into this baby to get it running and wish them the best with their new NFL jobs.)
4. Ed Orgeron was Atlas to our USC world. He held us up to the recruiting world and made men out of our boys. Watching them destroy offense after offense to the point that echoes of Trojan lore resounded throughout Heritage Hall in "Wild Bunch" has me forever in this man's bunker. As great as Pete and Norm were in the launch of this campaign, they would've been nothing without this war hero. "Here's to you, coach. Give ‘em Hell." I can't wait to hear about his successes down South.
5. Coaches Ruell and Franklin have big shoes to fill and it is with serious anticipation that I think things are going to fit, just right. Welcome, give us your everything because that's what we've become accustomed to and… learn there is no better battle cry than… Fight On! Now engrain it in your players.
Holy smokes, the gifts just keep coming. These, surprisingly are not even from family members and granted aren't on any loyal Trojan's wish list, but I'm opening them anyway…
1. Oh boy, the first thing I opened of non-USC stuff is… Charlie Weiss and his, hopefully-finally-back-to,-because-I'm-getting-bored-bitch-slapping-them-around, Fighting Irish. I really can't wait to see how this NFL genius translates as a college head coach. Can you say Paul "ew" Hackett? I knew you could.
2. Next, in an ever-unimpressive collection of junk comes Karl Dorrell and his Ucla Bruins. Karl's not been the most inspiring of leaders over in Deadwood as was witnessed when the Bruins attempted their own "Flashback Camp" and had so few enrollees, they couldn't field a team. That's not the way to energize an off-season, but still hope springs eternal for the boys in baby blue. Personally, I think if they get the qb position figured out, they could be one of the better Pac Ten teams for the 2005 season. What's great is that because of a schedule that only compares to that of Cal's, the Bruins should have a winning season and that, my friends, will keep Karl around for another year or two. Thank you, God.
3. Hey, this next one comes from a real coach: Urban Meyer. Man am I excited to see what he can do with Chris Leak and those Florida Gators. Bob Stoops was made a has-been by Pete Carroll. Meyer might turn him into a never-was if the Oklahoma Sooners don't reload, but quick.
4. Speaking of reloading, this next gift comes from our neighbors to the North. Most college football prognosticators are saying the Cal Bears, despite losing more starters than most teams have a right to survive, will be meaner and nastier than their 2004 version. Beyond a very good head coach (sorry, he's not great until he starts notching up big bowl victories), an excellent offensive line and running back, the Bears hardly seem frightening. Perhaps Goldilocks would disagree but until I see them roll through their three toughest opponents in '05, being USC, Oregon and Ucla, they are nothing more than a fairy tale to me.
5. Marcus Vick and the Virginia Tech has piqued my interest a tad bit. Don't ask me why, however. This two time loser is being afforded a third strike, out, and might just take it. I guess I want to see the best come out in everybody, so I am hoping he is at least a glimmer of his older brother's electrifying self.
6. Oh, wait there's more: I guess I'm mildly interested in opening up this one… How good will the Pac Ten clubs be that are replacing starting quarterbacks. ASU's Sam Kellar seems hungry to topple the National Champs, Ucla could be hearing the chimes of Big Ben Olsen, the UW has a battle brewing for their signal caller, the Beavers must replace 5th year senior, Derek Anderson and of course, those Bears might have a season long debate between Nate Longshore and Joseph Ayoob as to who belongs at the helm. However these clubs work things out, the general perception is that the Pac Ten team with the most senior quarterbacks usually end up atop the heap. Think that puts us in a pretty good position.
One more. This one I'm not all that excited about but it'd be rude to not at least take a peek.
1. While at one time I considered this a good hire, and do hope it works out that way, I am barely interested in how Ty Willingham fares in Washington. Many feel he got a bum rap at Notre Dame but I've begun to wonder if he ever deserved the gig at all. While he wasn't solely responsible for the demise of the Irish, he certainly took a lot of the fight out of them. Since I always hated Bruce Davie, I'll continue to place most of the blame on him, but I still think Ty didn't get it done at the level I thought he was capable. With his hire at UW, he suddenly seems like a forgotten soldier. We'll see how his tenure turns out. You gotta feel bad for him if he repeats his performance from one former powerhouse to this one. That's no football legacy to be proud of. Who would've thought that the Huskies would ever share a room in the cellar of the Pac Ten with the Stanford Cardinal?
My two lumps of coal for this coming year are both found in the state of California and are the two things I look forward to least before every season: the Stanford Marching Band and playing any football game at Cal's Strawberry Canyon. Both of these are chock full of some of the rudest people I've ever met and unfortunately this never seems to change.
I guess if that's the worst the season has to offer, things are looking pretty rosey, no very rosey. I'd love to hear what everyone else is looking forward to for this college football season. It's only weeks away and I can nearly hear the cadence being called now…