No matter how many birthdays I celebrate, or how educated society considers me to be, my dad will always remark that he wishes I could turn back into a 3rd grader. This may appear overly protective, borderline insane or just incredibly odd, but there's a point in all of this: he longs for my childhood naiveness. We all do. Not mine per se, but our own state of innocence, especially when it comes to the sports landscape. We miss being able to look at an upcoming football contest, and simply expect our team to win because we love them so. We miss looking at things without the lenses of cynicism. In short, we long for the days of being unquestionably optimistic, which leads me to Saturday's contest against Oregon.
I think we (USC) can beat No. 1 Oregon, and this is not based on any sort of intensive analysis on whether Monte Kiffin and company can stop Chip Kelly's famed spread offense. But it sure feels like 2008 again. Tomorrow morning, ESPN's College Gameday will be televising its weekly show from the Peristyle end of the Coliseum, fans will be adorned in cardinal and the celebrities (Will Ferrell and Snoop) will be in full force.
Can USC now tackle? I'm not sure. Did the 6 a.m. practices during the bye week serve as proper conditioning for a starting unit that will be forced to contend with an Oregon team that averages more plays per game than any team nationally? I'm skeptical. And well, are the Trojans really as good as their performance against Cal suggests? Maybe; maybe not.
On paper, it would appear as if Oregon is the better team; as seen by their blowout wins over the course of the first half of the season. They're atop both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches poll, and well, their offense sure scores a lot of points. USC, on the other hand, has been so bad at times defensively that many questioned whether Allen Bradford should have taken a knee toward the end of the Stanford game to burn more seconds on the game clock.
Tomorrow's contest against Oregon hinges on whether USC's Oct. 16 game against Cal was more than an aberration, and based on the cardinal shirt I'm presently wearing, I'm going to hope that is was. Drinking the ‘SC kool aid feels like the 2002-2008 Carroll years, when the Coliseum was the place to be in Los Angeles. And it sure tastes good.
The festive atmosphere for Saturday's scheduled "Red Out" serves as a reminder of those good times, whether the now Kiffin-coached Trojans are any good or not. Granted, we still don't know if this team is the 24th best team in the nation or not, but hey, Snoop's in the house and the Gameday crew is over at Exposition Park, it sure feels like ‘SC is good again.
In many ways, though, at least statistically, they are. Matt Barkley has a touchdown-to-interception of 4:1. Freshman wideout Robert Wood has already amassed over 500 receiving yards, along with 6 touchdown receptions. Running back Allen Bradford is roughly 400 yards on the ground away from reaching the 1,000-yard plateau.
Nothing said or written about USC in the past week has been particularly groundbreaking. The storylines are obvious. ‘SC has been fantastic offensively, while the defensive side has had its fair share of problems. The point remains whether they can shore up those nagging issues despite playing an offensive juggernaut on Oregon.
We'll find out tomorrow night. For now, I'm going to enjoy the Halloween festivities and bank on the fact that they will.