The final hours are ticking away to the start of the football season, and the Men Of Troy are in Honolulu to start the Hot Seat Season (also known as the Hot-Seat-But-Not-Really-Because-Haden-Said-So Season). But before USC's athletic season kicks off in earnest, let's take one final look back at last season, one in which USC won three national championships, fell flat in the revenue sports, and several Olympics stars showcased their talents for the Cardinal and Gold.
We start with the fall sports:
Football -- 7-6 (5-4, 2nd Pac-12 South, 5th overall)
Postseason: Sun Bowl vs. Georgia Tech - L 21-7
Awards: WR Marqise Lee - Biletnikoff Award, Unanimous All-American, Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year
C Khaled Holmes - All Pac-12
DT Leonard Williams - Pac-12 Freshman Of The Year
WR Robert Woods, DL/LB Morgan Breslin, S T.J. McDonald, CB Nickell Robey - 2nd Team All Pac-12
What can be said about this that hasn't been said already? It was a disgrace, and USC fans won't tolerate anything close to a repeat performance. Marqise Lee, the one player who performed to expectations and earned the most Heisman votes by any Trojan since 2005, will be expected to do two things: contend for the Heisman and Biletnikoff again, and become the first WR drafted to the NFL next year.
Game to watch for: Sept. 28 @ Arizona State - The game against UCLA would have been too obvious, so lets go with the critical road game against the other Pac-12 South contender. After a relatively easy schedule, the Pendergast defense and the new starting QB will both need to have any nagging problems solved if they want to take out the rising Sun Devils. If they win, it could be a massive confidence booster similar to the win over ND in 2011. Lose, and Kiffin could have chaos on his hands.
Women's Volleyball -- 30-6 (15-5, 3rd Pac-12)
Postseason: First Round vs. Fairfield - W 25-8, 25-11, 25-10
Second Round vs. St. Mary's - W 28-26, 25-16, 25-19
Regional Semifinal vs. Wichita State - W 25-20, 25-19, 25-17
Regional Final vs. Texas - L 25-19, 25-22, 25-14
Awards: L Natalie Hagglund - All-American, Pac-12 Libero Of The Year
OH Katie Fuller - 3rd All-American
OH Samantha Bricio - All Pac-12, Pac-12 Freshman Of The Year
This team wasn't able to reach the accolades of the 2011 team, which earned a Pac-12 title, a final four berth, and player of the year honors. But it was still a good year for the Women of Troy, reaching the 30-win mark for the eighth time in program history and finishing third in the toughest conference in the nation before having their season ended by the eventual national champion Texas Longhorns in the elite eight. This year, senior libero Natalie Hagglund will demonstrate her ninja-like mobility one last time, while sophomore Samantha Bricio looks to replace departing All-American outside hitter Katie Fuller as USC's offensive juggernaut.
Game To Watch For: Oct. 4 vs. Stanford - USC starts the season ranked #4 in the nation and projected to finish 2nd in the Pac-12. One spot ahead of them in both polls are the Cardinal. This match is early in the conference schedule but will be critical in determining who wins the Pac-12 this year. If you have Pac-12 Network, tune in and get ready for a five-set fireworks show.
Women's Soccer -- 6-10-3 (3-6-2, 8th Pac-12)
The rather disappointing record belies the improvement that Ali Khosroshahin's team made last year. The team played in a program-record nine overtime games last season, one of them being a narrow defeat to top-ranked Stanford in the Coliseum and another a buzzer-beating victory over UCLA from a throw-in made with ten seconds left. The Women of Troy hope to change the trend of narrow defeats they suffered last year, losing eight games by one goal. They are already off to a good start, defeating San Diego and #11 San Diego State this past weekend by scores of 4-2 and 4-1, respectively. As a result, senior forward Elizabeth Eddy earned Pac-12 Player Of The Week honors for scoring three goals, and USC is now ranked #22 in the polls.
Games To Watch For: -- Oct. 13 at Stanford; Nov. 7 vs. Stanford - Yeah, yeah, a lot of these top games will be against Westwood and Palo Alto. Hey, they are atop the NCAA title count for a reason, and with both teams ranked in the top 5 nationally, the road to the Pac-12 title still runs through them. But given how last year's team did against these two formidable opponents, you have to believe USC could stage breakthrough road wins here.
Women's Cross Country -- 10th Pac-12
Awards: 1st Place, Aztec Invitational
2nd Place, UC Irvine Invitational, Highlander Invitational
Erica Capellino - 1st Place, Aztec Invitational
Jenna Tong - 3rd Place, Aztec Invitational
Here's another team that showed improvement in 2012, going from a work-in-progress to a team that notched their first meet win in years at San Diego State. But this season looks to be another one where the team will have to learn on the fly. USC has hired a new XC coach, former TCU coach David Freeman, who only met the team two weeks ago and is going to use the first two meets to evaluate his talent. The Trojans face an uphill battle if they want to contend for conference and NCAA titles, as more experienced teams like Arizona, Stanford, and defending national champion Oregon stand in their way.
Meet to Watch For: USC/UCLA Dual Meet -- Dual meets are usually the domain of track and swimming, but this year the cross country teams will get their own rivalry game. UCLA finished 6th at last year's Pac-12 championships.
Men's Water Polo -- 29-0 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
Postseason: MPSF Quarterfinal vs. UCSB - W 17-9
MPSF Semifinal vs. Stanford - W 11-10
MPSF Championship vs. Cal - W 9-5
NCAA Semifinal vs. Air Force - W 18-7
NCAA Championship vs. UCLA - W 11-10
Awards: Jovan Vavic - National Coach Of The Year
D Nikola Vavic - National Player Of The Year, All-American
GK James Clark, D Michael Rosenthal - All-American
D Kostas Genidounias - 2nd All-American
U Mace Rapsey - 3rd All-American
And we end the fall sports recap/preview with the most successful team of the lot: The Vavic Dynasty. Jovan Vavic will attempt to lead the men's water polo team to a sixth consecutive national championship. If he succeeds, he will have won more national championships than any coach in the 125-year history of Trojan Athletics, passing the 12 titles won by legendary track coach Dean Cromwell. All five All-Americans from last year will return to the pool, along with four other Trojans who scored at least 10 goals last season. Put it all together, and unsurprisingly, USC is the top-ranked team in the nation and favored to win the MPSF.
Games To Watch For -- MPSF Championships Nov. 29-Dec. 1 - Last year, the Trojans had the luxury of hosting both the MPSF and NCAA championships in their home pool. They will not have such an advantage this year, with Pacific hosting MPSF and Stanford hosting the NCAAs. Stanford will be fighting hard to win the championship in front of their home fans, so winning the MPSF and the automatic berth that comes with it is crucial. Winning the conference tournament hasn't been a must for the Trojans in recent years, but it does help keep them in control of their own destiny.
Up next...the winter sports, including the impending Enfield Era.