Ladies and Gentlemen: it's back. Gameday has finally returned to South Central after the longest 280 days in the history of man. We've watched Pete Carroll bolt for Seattle, Paul Dee and his band of "enforcement officials" hand out punishments on a whim, and a Hawaii offense post nearly 600 yards of total offense against a porous 'SC defense last week. Yes, it feels like ages since the Trojans were ushered out of the southwest stadium tunnel and into the Coliseum with 92,000 fans adorned with cardinal and gold cheering them on.
But today, they're back. The Boys of Fall return to The Grand Old Lady, and it couldn't be any better. The band has begun blasting Conquest on campus, and Trousdale is already lined with tailgaters as well. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective), I won't be online for much of today, but here are some notes/thoughts on today's matchup with Virginia before I head out to Alumni Park and partake in various pregame rituals.
It's no secret, but 'SC and UVA don't have a storied history against each other. The only meeting in program history came in 2008, when Mark Sanchez and company racked up 52 points in Charlottesville. But Al Groh's no longer coaching the 'Hoos, and as a result, there has to be some improvement - just by default.
Virginia established outstanding offensive balance in the opener against Richmond, posting over 200 yards on the ground and through the air en route to 488 total yards. Keith Payne was the most impressive performer for the Cavaliers, as the bruising tailback posted 114 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries.
As for the passing attack, quarterback Marc Verica was impressive as well, connecting on 24-of-35 passes for 283 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
"He didn't try to win the game by doing something heroic," said London of Verica. "He stayed within himself and threw high percentage completions and moved the chains. If he continues to do that, he'll continue to help us."
It's tough to really know a team after just one week, especially when it played against an FCS opponent in Richmond, but nonetheless, I think we do understand a few things about Virginia and today's contest.
1.) Al Groh is not their coach. They have to be better. At the very least, they're going to play harder, and with more purpose. Seriously, you'd be challenged to find a coach more uninspiring than Groh. In short, they are not going to fold if 'SC gets out to an early lead.
2.) USC will not not score 49 points again. In many ways, the offense could be better, more efficient in week 2. Robert Woods has some game experience under his belt, Dillon Baxter returns to the lineup, and well, they're also playing at home. But with Virginia featuring a more traditional offense (i.e. they actually run the ball), expect fewer possessions for both teams, and in turn, less scoring.
3.) The defense can't get much worse. As stated before, the defense was absolutely awful against Hawaii's run-and-shoot/pistol offense. Fortunately, it would seem as if improvement would be the only option left for USC, and why not? Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin are still running the defense, Nick Perry returns to the lineup, and UVA runs a pro-style set similar to USC's offense presenting the youthful, inexperienced bunch with some familiarity.
Whatever happens tonight, at the very least, it's great to see football return to the Coliseum. Enjoy the game everyone.