IMHO Sunday: Three’s company

Greg Katz – WeAreSC.com

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think.

The yellow brick road: As Dorothy said in the classic Wizard of Oz, “Trojans and Rams, and Chargers, oh my!” It was announced this past week that the San Diego Chargers are the latest NFL team to arrive in Los Angeles, and the timing couldn’t be better for the Trojans. Both the Rams and the Chargers are horrible, and the Trojans just finished the season as the No. 3 team in the country, according to the Associated Press. As things stand today, the USC Trojans are the most successful football team in town.

The yellow brick road – Part 2: Now had the Raiders returned to L.A. instead of the Chargers, the competition for the paying football fan might have been a major challenge. So, after several seasons of tough breaks due to NCAA sanctions and self-inflicted wounds, the Trojans appear to have caught a break in not only the way the 2016 season finished, but if you’re going to have to compete with two NFL teams, the struggling Rams and the Chargers fit the bill. It figures these two NFL teams will need several seasons to rebuild to a championship level.

The yellow brick road – Part 3: Of course, the best way for the Trojans to ensure their place in the Los Angeles football market is to continue to win big and be constant contenders for the College Football Playoff and win Pac-12 titles. The Trojans have all the intangibles to get the job done, and it doesn’t hurt that by the time next season rolls around, Sam Darnold may be the spotlight name on the City of Angels football landscape.

The crystal ball: Those that make odds in Las Vegas (Bovada) have listed the Trojans as 9-1 to win the 2017 national title. That puts the Men of Troy behind Alabama (4-1), Florida State (7-2), Ohio State (15-2) but equal to Michigan and Oklahoma, which are also 9-1 to win it all.

The crystal ball – Part 2: Washington, the defending Pac-12 Champions, is a shocking 40-1 to win the national title.

The crystal ball – Part 3: How much will the odds change if the Trojans electrifying Adoree’ Jackson returns for his senior season?

Reality check: There will obviously be a ton of positive expectations for the Trojans in 2017, but the reality is that the Men of Troy need to replace three of their starting offensive linemen – two of whom were All-Americans and first-team All-Pac-12 selections (Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler) and a third that was second-team All-Pac-12 (guard Damien Mama) and, of course, the potential loss of Adoree’ Jackson, a game-breaker, so help me Notre Dame.

Reality check – Part 2: Believe it or not, with all those losses on the offensive line, 2017 preseason All-America quarterback Sam Darnold can’t do it all, or can he?

COLA: Alabama and Clemson played for the national championship on Monday night, and ticket prices were off the charts. On game day, StubHub had seats going for just under $2,000, which makes one wonder what the cost of a ticket might be if the Trojans were able to make it to the title game in 2018? BTW, one of next season’s CFP semi-final games will be played in the Rose Bowl, and it’s possible the Trojans could be seeded in Pasadena. Imagine those ticket prices.

No complaints: You probably won’t get a complaint from Trojans fans regarding CFP ticket prices if the Men of Troy return to the Rose Bowl if it means a spot in a CFP semi-final.

On the other hand: Next season’s other CFP semi-final game will also be played in the Sugar Bowl, which would be exciting for Trojans fans if the Men of Troy were seeded in New Orleans. Both CFP semi-final games will be played on Jan. 1, 2018.

Take your pick: If the Trojans were seeded into the 2017 CFP semi-finals, being placed in either Pasadena or New Orleans would be a win-win situation.

The final destination: The winners of next season’s College Football Playoff semi-finals will play on Jan. 8. The location of the CFP National Championship Game will be in the new football stadium in Atlanta. And speaking of Atlanta, if the Trojans are fortunate enough to make it the final game, Atlanta is also the new home of the College Football Hall of Fame.

From the press box…

Justin time: Former Trojans defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will be the next head coach at Cal. Wilcox, who is coming to Berkeley from his former DC position at Wisconsin, could be one of the more interesting hires in the Pac-12. Obviously, his tenure at Troy was not a good fit, so we’ll find out if he can recruit with what appears to be a very low-key personality.

Summers time: Former Trojans offensive line coach Mike Summers (2013) has been hired in the same position at Louisville. Summers has been at Florida the past three seasons.

Next man up: In case you missed it, Western Michigan, the Trojans 2017 opening game opponent, has hired former Purdue assistant Tim Lester as its football head coach. Lester was a standout quarterback at Western Michigan from 1996-99, throwing for 11,299 yards and 89 touchdowns.

Hmm: Wonder what former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was thinking watching the Crimson Tide’s glorious season go down in flames against Clemson. Why do I think that Kiffin might have smiling at the end?

Serviceable: I thought that former Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian did a workmanlike job – given the circumstances – as Alabama offensive coordinator in the CFP National Championship. Sark didn’t lose the game for the Crimson Tide, and he put freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts in a position to win the game. The real culprit in the Alabama loss is that when it counted the most, Nick Saban’s vaunted defense was unable to stop Clemson’s explosive offense. The Bama loss sort of reminded me of the Trojan loss at Utah, unable to stop the Utes when it counted.

IMHO: You’ve heard it here and others say it before, and we’ll say it again, the CFP should be decided almost completely on the field of competition. Just expand the field to eight teams with the Power 5 conference champions getting automatic bids and then select three at-large teams for the final three spots. Let the kids decided it on the field and not in some swank hotel ballroom. Isn’t it a no-brainer?

IMHO – Part 2: All this negative talk that expanding the playoff field to eight teams would make the season one week longer and make games during the season meaningless is hogwash. If you had automatic selections by winning your conference championship game, games would still be meaningful during the regular season and the conference championship games would be part of the pre-playoff picture. A team like USC that struggle in the first month of the season and became one of the great teams in the country the last two months of the season could still be considered as an “at-large” team. In this model, the CFP committee wouldn’t have to debate the first five slots in a CFP model.

IMHO – Part 3: And, by doing our CFP model, the “tournament” would begin as a national tournament, thus involving the entire country geographically from the outset.

It speaks for itself: Clay Helton is 9-0 in the Coliseum as a Trojans head coach and 2-0 in games played in the Rose Bowl (victories over Penn State and UCLA). Say what you want, but that’s still an impressive feat.

The post-game show…

All-Bowl: ESPN announced its All-Bowl Team and Trojans sophomore wide receiver Deontay Burnett made the club. Of Burnett, ESPN wrote, “The Trojans didn’t offer Burnett a scholarship until national signing day two years ago, but he’s turned into a steal. He caught 13 passes for 164 yards with three touchdowns in USC’s 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, including the game-tying 27-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold with 1:20 to play.”

All- Bowl – Part 2: Also selected to the ESPN All-Bowl team was Trojans senior safety Leon McQuay lll. Regarding McQuay, ESPN wrote, “McQuay turned in the biggest defensive play in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl Game in history. With the score tied at 49, McQuay intercepted Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley’s pass and returned it 32 yards to the PSU 33 to set up the Trojans’ winning field goal in a 52-49 win. He also had seven tackles.”

All-Bowl – Part 3: Selected to the ESPN All-Bowl team was Trojans junior placekicker Matt Boermeester. Wrote ESPN, “Boermeester, who had missed two long field goal attempts earlier in the Rose Bowl Game, kicked a 46-yarder as time expired to give the Trojans a thrilling 52-49 victory over the Nittany Lions. His kick capped a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback for the Trojans.”

The shirt: How long will it be before the Trojans Bookstore displays shirts with “We’re Back” on the front and the final AP Top 25 on the back.

In memory: Sad to see that former Trojans fullback Michael Alo, 55, has passed. Michael was a prep legend at Wilmington (Calif.) Banning High. It was a big deal when he came to Troy. Unfortunately, Alo was injured early and his career ended. At the high school level, he was as physical a running back as you’ll ever see.

The last word: Disneyland is also known as “The Happiest Place on Earth” and Walt Disney’s world famous amusement park can also be a barometer of the local sports pulse. Thanks to the Trojans marvelous nine-game winning streak and an exhilarating Rose Bowl win, during a recent visit this past week to Disneyland after the Rose Bowl, I saw more Trojans T-shirt, hoodies, and hats since the last time the Trojans won a Rose Bowl, which was 2009. No doubt about it, the USC brand has been greatly heightened, thanks to a wonderful seasonal comeback.

Greg Katz

Katz has been with WeAreSC since 2002, which includes contributions to Scout and ESPN.com. A member of the Football Writers Association.

1 Reply to "IMHO Sunday: Three’s company"

  • Michael Scotti January 15, 2017 (7:46 pm)

    Agree with your position on expanding the playoff to 8 teams with all 5 P5 conference champions being represented.
    To place the 3 at large teams on an even playing field, I would recommend the following:
    1. all P5 teams have at least one P5 team on their schedule
    2. each P5 conference mandate that its teams play a minimum of 9 conference games.
    This would hopefully eliminate or greatly reduce the high # of teams from one P5 conference in the top 10. This year’s “culprit” was the Big 10 – no way that OSU, PSU, Michigan & Wisconsin deserved to be there.
    Here is the winning percentage of each P5 conference’s play against P5 conference opponents [regular season & bowl games].
    ACC: 64% [18/28]
    P12: 57% [12/21]
    Big12: 47% [7/15]
    Big10: 45% [10/22]
    SEC: 44% [11/25]
    These figures should play into ranking conference teams at the start of 2017 – not just team history.

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