How about another Friday Football Fix this week. We’re just three days away from actual football after months of anticipation, and we still have a bit of time for some serious talk. Friday is a good time to do it.
So . . . here we go
Liking No. 15
Can’t think of a better place for USC to start this college football season than the No. 15 spot that the Trojans secured in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll Thursday and No. 4 among six ranked Pac-12 programs behind No. 4 Oregon, UCLA (No. 7), Stanford (11) and ahead of Arizona State (18) and Washington (25). That’s exactly half the league, equaling the SEC’s seven of 14 teams. And USC is way better off than last year’s national runnerup Auburn, which didn’t get a sniff in the first poll.
And while the new playoffs won’t use the Coaches Poll, it’s a pretty good place to start when all you’re trying to do is get into the four-team field. And we’ll note that ESPN’s Pac-12 blog reports that according to ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI), USC is one of five Pac-12 teams facing the six most difficult schedules in the nation with UCLA No. 1, Utah No. 2, Cal No. 3, Washington State No. 5 and USC No. 6.
For those wondering, Steve Sarkisian does vote in the Coaches Poll along with league coaches Mike Leach, Mike MacIntyre, Chris Petersen, Mike Riley and Rich Rodriguez. Did he vote for the Trojans? We’ll ask.
’Our 65 better than your 85’-Sark
We’re hearing rave reviews for Sark’s “state of the program” address Thursday to the athletic department. “Impressive,” was one description. “He really has a vision for USC football.”
One important point was how there will be no whining, as Sark has said before, nor any focus on numbers. USC will have to beat 85-scholarship teams with 65 originally recruited scholarship guys, that’s just the way it is. But it does make the point with Sark using the number “65” on a number of occasions that he expects at least a couple more of the rehabbing players not to be ready to answer the bell this fall.
Big miss on Buck
The undervaluing of running backs in general and USC’s Buck Allen in particular, continues. Now as much as we like the work of the ESPN Pac-12 bloggers, they had a big miss in their Top 25 Pac-12 Players Rankings with no Buck. In fact, they selected just one true running back, Oregon’s Byron Marshall.
But somehow they managed to find space for four defensive players from Washington. Hello. As it turns out, just about the only way to get a sniff here at running back is to be a two-way defensive guy like Myles Jack or Shaq Thompson, who made it.
Not that USC was overlooked here. The Trojans had four selections -- No. 2 Leonard Williams, No. 7 Nelson Agholor, No. 12 Hayes Pullard and No. 23 Su'a Cravens, the same number as Oregon and Stanford as well as UW and one more than UCLA.
No complaining about SI cover
Remember the days when those were USC players, and maybe Heisman Trophy prospects, on the SI College Football Preview regional cover and this year, Trojan fans are having to look at a baby-blue-and-gold clad Brett Hundley of UCLA smiling at them. But no way there should be any complaints about the choice of a Bruin.
After all, USC essentially put him there. Two straight horrific gameplans together with equally bad execution in the Crosstown Rivalry have made Hundley the star he is. Two years ago, even though Hundley had been doing it all season, Monte Kiffin gave the redshirt freshman that midrange route to his tight ends, then was astonished when he kept completing it.
Last year, USC decided to do nothing special to defend him, just “to stay with our principles,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast famously said of a befuddled USC back seven that got shredded by the athletic Hundley when the play broke down. So if USC doesn’t like looking at a UCLA cover guy, they’ll have one more chance to change that this November.
Did you know?
Some of these we did know, others not so much. Although we do know the official name of the poll is now the Amway USA Today Coaches Poll. And we did know that USC was tied with Oklahoma for the second-most Coaches Poll titles with six (1962-67-72-74-78-2004) behind Alabama’s eight. But here’s what we did not know.
USC has finished in the No. 2 spot seven times (1968-76-79-2003-05-07-08) more than any other team. Ohio State is next in line with six. Now of course, at least a couple of those were bogus seconds but we don’t need to relitigate them now. Miami was second five times, Alabama four.
All those seconds give USC the most top-two finishes with 12 ahead of Alabama’s 11. The Trojans are fifth with 17 top-five finishes behind Oklahoma (25), Ohio State (21), Alabama (19) and Texas (18) and ahead of Notre Dame (15), Florida State (14), Nebraska (12), Penn State (12), Georgia (10) and Michigan (10). Just thought you’d like to know.
K-Biggs keeps on amazin’
Heading downstairs to the weight room at McKay Center the other day and who do we see crossing the lobby at the other end of the building? Well, we weren’t sure. Could it be? The big guy looked like the K-Biggs guy who’d just had his ACL surgically repaired two weeks ago. But this guy wasn’t limping, much less riding in a cart, and with just a little wrap on his knee. And a big smile on his face.
Now we’re not allowed to interview the players off the field without an appointment but it was hard not to at least wish Kenny Bigelow a chance to do something else no one would have thought possible in a season when he can’t redshirt. Maybe he could make a miraculous comeback for a January bowl game. You’d have to think if anybody has a chance, Kenny might after practicing this summer despite his injury until his surgery.
Tales from the equipment room
One of the real challenges in recent years for the equipment guys was a Lane Kiffin order that he didn’t ever want to see anything with “Sun Bowl” on it, as we might imagine he wouldn’t. So they had to design and get a patch made so that whenever a player showed up wearing any of the gear – backpacks, hoodies – from El Paso, it had to be confiscated and the Sun Bowl lettering and logo covered up with an SC patch. If only it was that easy to blot out the memories of that whole bowl experience but no patch will ever be able to do that.
By the numbers
* Helmet time for the other ‘football’? While the number most people came away with from last week’s agreement by the NCAA to settle a consolidated class-action concussion lawsuit was the $70 million screening for athletes with possible head trauma and another $5 million for research, our guy at CBSSports.com, Dennis Dodd found another interesting one in the Litigation Expert Report: Concussions per 1,000 athletes: football 42, women’s soccer, 41.
*1,267 to 700: Those are the comparative credentialed attendee numbers for the four-day SEC media days and the Pac-12 the last two weeks. That’s up some 50 for the Pac-12 that had 425 media credentialed. Here’s one number the Pac-12 can never touch: The SEC folks consumed 7,500 cups of Dr. Pepper during their sessions in Birmingham, we’re told.
*7-9-12: For those of us who lost our college football program (A Xavier program that gave up Division I back in the 1970s after a valiant battle), these numbers are amazing when you consider the obvious financial and legal challenges facing college football. Seven new programs will launch in 2014, including three on the West Coast (if you count Arizona). There will be nine more in 2015-2016 after a dozen debuted in 2012-2013. Some basketball schools here: College of Idaho, East Tennessee, New Orleans, Houston Baptist, Mercer, Stetson and North Carolina-Charlotte. Look for them at an SEC stadium in the very near future.