When I wrote my inaugural blog last week I was a little worried about the quality of the content and how well it would be received. I was pleasantly surprised when most of the feedback was positive. That happiness was very short-lived as I soon came to realized I screwed myself into writing blogs every week for the rest of the season.
So here we are with another game preview of an awful opponent. In the last two weeks I have spent the little free time I have researching teams like Arkansas State, and Idaho. This time could have been spent a lot better. I could be trying to figure out which photos of myself should be on my Bumble profile, contemplating why I moved an hour away from my job, or stealing my roommate's alcohol because I forgot to run to the store.
I know much more about the Sun Belt conference than anyone should. It's basically the football version of "The Island of Misfit Toys". A collection of teams that get paid to travel to power conferences and get the s*** kicked out of them so their opponents can polish off before league play. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the chosen few that can find a way to savage 6 or 7 wins; they get to play in the GoDaddy Bowl or the Camellia Bowl. Both are located in Alabama, so the attendance will be less than a Crimson Tide spring practice.
This week, we continue our charity case preseason against Idaho. Nope, not that fun team that plays on the blue turf and runs trick plays. The Idaho Vandals. A team that will assure you two colleges in that state is one too many. I am beginning to realize the only reason we learned state capitals in middle school is so we don't forget states like Arkansas and Idaho exists. There is nothing more to Idaho than Boise and potatoes. If you were from California and went to public school, you may remember having to take a class about the state's history. Just kidding, no one from USC went to public school. But try to imagine. If Idaho had a similar curriculum, it would last a couple of days, with the reading material being the size of a travel brochure. I am only assuming Idahoans know how to read because they are above the Mason-Dixon Line. I did my best to research Idaho. Trust me.
Let's move on to the recap.
USC 55 Arkansas State 6
Yet another solid showing for Cody Kessler that went unrecognized by anyone outside the Trojan faithful. Kessler threw for 19 for 26 for 236 yards and four TDs in a game that was basically wrapped up by halftime. But everyone is freaking out about the quarterback across town, UCLA's Josh Rosen.
I'll just jump right in; it is laughable how much national praise Josh Rosen's Game 1 performance received. Look everyone NOSE that he's highly touted, but does everyone remember Kenny "Trill" Hill from Texas A&M last year? First game he threw for like a 1,000 yards, breaking every A&M record. But what happened? Well he had a terrible rest of the season, which eventually led to A&M benching him and Hill transferring. Now, this isn't to say "The Chosen One" will face the same fate; all I am saying is that judging a player based on one game (especially seeing that UCLA faced a mediocre ACC team at home) is incredibly irrational.
USC had a flashback to "Running Back U" on Saturday, with over 150 yards rushing and three TDs. Tre Madden lead the team with 106 yards, and true freshman Ronald Jones II added 86 yards. The performance may have been a little too much for Jones as was pulled from practice later that week due to dizziness caused by what he called "Whataburger withdrawals". If Madden stays healthy, and Jones gets some burgers overnighted from Texas, the rushing attack will only improve when Justin Davis returns this week.
The defense was extremely impressive even with star corner Adoree' Jackson being held out with an abdominal strain that caused half of the Coliseum to burn up their batteries and data plans to refresh twitter for injury updates. They forced four turnovers and held Arkansas State to 119 yards in the first half. Arkansas State was eventually able to start moving the ball in the second half but by then everyone at the game had already left because people have social lives not hindered by watching the whole game for their blog.
The offensive line looked shaky in the first half with Kessler getting sacked five times. While the rushing attack was solid, and adjustments were made, this is a slight concern. I have a feeling Pac-12 teams will have better defensive lines than Arkansas State. Then again Oregon did give up 42 points to Eastern Washington.
The Trojan Marching band was exhausted after having to play the "Fight On" song 7000 times in a row. Let's hope they are ready to do it again this week or they will have to change their requirements for playing to a gain of more than five yards.
Sark Hot Seat Meter
Each week I will track Steve Sarkissian performance in order to determine whether or not he will be looking for work next year. (Inspired by @PFTCommenter's Joe Flacco Elite-O-Meter)
There was controversy with Sark? He got drunk on stage at a donor event? Sounds made up. All I remember was winning on Saturday.
Sark coached as good a game as you could against a team that none of his players took seriously. Sark used this opportunity along with his newly required roster depth and talent to implement his new strategy: platooning. These hockey style lineup changes allowed for 22 new Trojans to debut, 13 of them true freshman.
"That means the next man up is just as good as the man that was in front of him. That was the mentality we had coming into the game, so we knew we'd see a lot of the faces that we saw" - Kenny Bigelow
Everyone knows the best player on any team is next man up. It's just a fact. If Sark can build on this and find a way to implement some hard hats and lunch pails, then start booking hotels in Pasadena because we will be sniffing roses in January.
Our Opponent: Idaho Vandals
Location: Moscow, Idaho
2015 Record: 0-1 (Lost to Ohio 45-28)
2014 Record: 1-10
Yes, you read that correctly.The Vandals only won one game last year. One. To add insult to even more insult, the NCAA gave them a bowl ban for failing to meet academic standards and the minimum graduation rate. This can make some sense when you think about the intelligence a person has to have to willingly attend Idaho for four years. Getting banned from the postseason when you didn't even have an inkling of a chance of reaching there is so sad and pathetic. It's like the hottest girl in school saying she won't go out with you even though you didn't even ask.
But how do you actually fail to meet the minimum graduation rate for student athletes? I can't imagine the curriculum of Idaho going much further than proper crop management, and if it did, wouldn't you want to do everything you could so that you get the hell of there? A bachelor's degree from Idaho could at least get you a job at Enterprise, and they give you the tools to be your own boss.
Series Record: 8-0 USC
You may be asking yourself, why has USC played Idaho so many times? The answer is money. Idaho is getting paid around a million dollars to come to Los Angeles and get their a**** kicked. This is a substantial amount of money for a football program that has an annual budget of 4 million dollars. To put that in perspective that is around Sark's salary this year. So enjoy the trip to California before Saturday. Take in the sun, grab some In-N-Out, and enjoy seeing women who aren't wearing overalls and skinning potatoes for supper.
Coach: Paul Petrino
Paul Petrino is the younger brother of current Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. Bobby is known for resigning halfway thru his first year as Atlanta Falcons' head coach and notifying his players via a four-sentence laminated note left in each of their lockers, which is the football equivalent of breaking up thru text or email. Petrino left for Arkansas where he was later fired after being involved in a motorcycle crash with a female assistant that he was having an affair with. Needless to say, Bobby is a stand up individual.
Despite the extremely low bar set by his bigger brother, Paul Petrino is somehow worse. Paul is currently 2-22 as Idaho's head coach and he shows no promise of improving. Before the season, a local newspaper was critical of the Vandals' offense. Petrino was not fond of this article and confronted the reporter, berating him to the point where he had to be restrained by one of his assistant coaches. He went further and banned the reporter's access to practice which lead to several local newspapers to pull their coverage of the team. First off, how is there more than one newspaper forced to cover a team that has won three games in the last four years. I understand breaking into the sports' media industry is hard but there has to be a lot better ways than being a beat writer in Idaho. Second off, how much was the newspapers declining to cover the team less a sign of solidarity and more that they didn't want to write about how Idaho's quarterback can't throw farther than a 13-year-old Punt Pass and Kick champion.
On August 13th, apparently, or allegedly, three players stole around $400 dollars of clothes from the university store, marking the first time anyone has willingly wanted to wear Idaho gear. No charges were filed because Coach Petrino returned the clothing and convinced the school to handle it internally. When approached by the authorities about who the coaches had identified in the video, the manager told them he "didn't write it down and did not recall". In the manager's defense no one in that state knows how to write or recall. I guess playing for a team that loses this much is enough punishment.
Unfortunately, this gif is from 2014, but trust me they have not improved in any way. I watched the "highlight" reel of their first game and they did not have a significant play longer than 5 yards. If you don't believe me then waste a minute and half of your life and see for yourself.
Last week, Idaho lost to Ohio, a team the ranked 120th in offense the previous year, 45-28. They gave up 7.76 yards per play. This defense is allowing almost a first down on each snap to the fifth best team in Ohio. Do we have to play with 11 players on the field? Just want to try to make it fair.
Of course Idaho's best player is their kicker. Austin Rehkow is the NCAA's current leader in career punting average, which is extremely impressive given that he probably has to do it 100 times a game. Sadly like everyone who attends a state university, Rehkow peaked in high school when he kicked a 67 yard field goal to send his team into overtime
Idaho's strategy this game should be to immediately send their field goal team out if they ever get past midfield. Got to find some way to get on SportsCenter.
What's The Line? (-43)
Current Record: (0-1)
Last week, I greatly overestimated the Sun Belt conference but I will not make the same mistake twice. Taking a 43 point favorite seems absurd but Idaho is that bad. USC will be subbing in their third stringers by the fourth quarter and they will still the best team on the field.
If you're actually going to the game, please don't go sober (yes it's possible) and when you leave before halftime, please head home using a Uber Pool. I will feel bad for anyone who spends more than 20 dollars attending this game (that includes the ticket). USC is going to win, and they are going to win by a lot. I fully expect every person on the roster to get playing time, including Jake Olson. If there was any time to get him on the field, it's against Idaho. Hell, start pulling fans from the student section to play. I know a couple in the Audi Club that greatly exaggerate their athletic abilities.
USC 70 Idaho 7 (We show some mercy with a pity touchdown. We aren't monsters)