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The Fashionable Overuse of Hype and the 2010 USC Trojans

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01:  Head coach Lane Kiffin addresses the team following the  USC Trojans spring game on  May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: Head coach Lane Kiffin addresses the team following the USC Trojans spring game on May 1, 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I get it. I really do. Hype sells. It sells jerseys, newspaper clipping, and newly minted baseball cards. And because it sells so well, we now have a sports culture that thrives upon hype - something that isn't real or even remotely accurate. In turn, with just days until the 2010 college football season tees off, it's easy to understand why hyperboles are suddenly in vogue again. Terrelle Pryor is now the next Vince Young, the SEC is an extension of the NFL, and as for Lane Kiffin, well he's just a total dick but you already knew that.

And to be perfectly honest, it gets annoying to sift through all the garbage out there. I guess opinions sell and are considered to be "interesting, but seriously, nobody has a clue how 2010 is going to pan out. No, I'm not suggesting that we ban media geeks, frat bros, and tweeters, from making prognostications, but could we just relax a little bit?

Everything considered, sports talk radio might be the worst in regards to fostering this modern day culture of hype.

Host: So how do you guys think Jake Locker is going to do this year? (note: his name is likely Mad Mike or Crazy Casey, and he probably likes to scream when illustrating a point because your opinion obviously has more validity if you talk on a higher decibel level)

Caller #1 (Undoubtedly an "expert"): Locker is far and away the most talented player in college football. I see a December New York City trip and Roses in his future. (note: He's probably 5'3", fat, has had a newspaper column for 15 years, and refers to people under the age of 30 as youngsters)

Caller #2: Locker sucks. Completely overrated. (note: He's probably sitting in traffic, and his invested interest in the topic is probably the most legitimate out of the three)

What all of them really should say is: "I honestly don't have a clue."

Not that they shouldn't express opinions, but to promote certain viewpoints with absolute certainty is a tiring act. At the very least, I'm sick of it, particularly when it comes to the 2010 USC Trojans.

Presently, there seems to be two extreme schools of thought when discussing 'SC football. One idea, largely held by Bruins Nation, calls for the demise of the program as a whole. In their Pac-10 power poll, they called upon Kiffin and company to finish 8th in the conference; saying, "If the Trojans can figure out a way to win, they'll be bucking the entire history of sanctioned teams struggling so odds aren't on their side." The idea that USC is going to go from a team that finished 12-1 in 2008 with one of the best defenses in the history of the sport to a Pac-10 bottom dweller in just two years may make for a great story or headline for a UCLA blog, but that doesn't make it realistic.

Same goes for the idea that 'SC is going to cruise through the 2010 campaign with an undefeated record and an Associated Press national title in hand. It may look flashy on the USC fan websites, but is it going to happen? Color me pessimistic. Granted, it's a great way to rally the troops, but I'm not sure these are predications you want to take with you to Vegas.

Could they happen? Sure, it's possible. Either scenario is plausible. But in the end, these are just ways we fans get excited for college football. They're fun, but it's important to distinguish wishful thinking from careful, thoughtful analysis. One isn't necessary better than the other, as neither knows the final result, but it'd be nice if my fellow partisan fans could come to a mutual understand and respect of the other side.

Personally, I think USC is going to win 8-10 games this season and finish in the upper half of the conference because of a manageable schedule and a sniffling front seven. I'll probably be wrong, though. Usually happens. But hey, that's my take.

Could somebody believe the contrary? Absolutely. If somebody wanted to argue that 'SC is bound for a 6th place finish because of X, Y, and Z, that's perfectly understandable.

So all I ask is for people, to calm down and remove such strong conviction from the equation. Maybe it makes for better writing and can polarize the entire blogosphere, but I'm not sure we're being intellectually honest with ourselves.

Of course, you can argue that we're fans, and therefore, shouldn't express an ounce of rationality, but we're also supposed to be decent people with the ability to live amongst the other. (note: I'm not trying to sound like a California hippy)

But as seen with this entire offseason, USC seems to be king of the college football hype machine. Some tout Lane Kiffin as the figure head of the fall of Troy, whereas others suggest that he's the savior of the program. Apparently, this guy is Judas to one group or boy wonder to another. Dubbing him either fires up the radio listeners, but it isn't reasonable.

Hype and extreme viewpoints are pretty normal nowadays (see: Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olberman), but neither end of the spectrum is often fair to their subjects, which in this case is the 2010 USC football team.

In all likelihood, I probably feel this way due to the fact that I honestly have no idea what to think about the upcoming season. Previously, I always felt relatively certain in regards to the coming year. Not saying I was incredibly accurate in my predictions before, but to peg USC as a top 10 team was as seamless as waking up each morning. It became almost habitual.

But that all changed last year. USC went 9-4, ended up in the Emerald Bowl, lost Pete Carroll to the NFL, gained a head coach with a 7-6 career collegiate coaching record, and got sanctioned. In turn, these mixed results have divided fans and driven many toward the age of insanity. For the first time in years, it's time to place a question mark next to USC. We just don't know how this thing is going to turn out, which is why I find the definite certainty to be so tiresome.

Unfortunately, because of the culture we now have, that isn't just going to go away. If Kiffin guides USC through September with an undefeated mark, you can expect the LA Times and ESPN to start posting column after column that reads: "Kiffin right guy to succeed Carroll." In the same sense, if ‘SC runs into trouble (i.e. they lose a game), Yahoo! Sports is going to do its thing - rip Kiffin.

And yet, this world of extremes remains pretty sad. There just isn't a good enough sample size to get an accurate feel on Kiffin or a sanctioned USC. But, I can't control what people choose to say or write. In this modern-age, people have the capability of saying and posting whatever they want, and that's fine.

But what I ask of the Trojan Family, particularly the readers here, is to give this thing a shot. Let's take a deep breath, pause, and reserve judgment on the new regime. Bruin backers and haters alike, are going to be negative no matter what. There isn't much we can do about that.

However, I think we as a fanbase can have realistic expectations going into 2010 and beyond. We don't need to hit the panic button mid-way through the season. Similarly, we don't need to start dubbing Kiffin the next Carroll if USC starts 5-0. In a world of hype and extreme irrationality, it'd be a comforting sign if the many of us here can take the "wait and see" approach. It may not be flashy or fun, but based on the past 8 months, it's largely the only fair way we can evaluate the future of this tradition-rich program.