Saturday, April 08, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: SOUTHERN CAL
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden tra nsfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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New era commences steeped in Carroll's ebullient Tao of Troy, plus these dudes are still, like, totally fast and junk
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 54-10 (35-5 PAC Ten) / 2005: 12-1 (8-0 PAC Ten, Champions), Lost Rose Bowl
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 11 (4 Offense, 7 Defens e)
WHAT'S CHANGED: Several hundred pounds of hardware is gone en route to the NFL, most notably from the prolific backfield that got most of the attention during the team's 34-game win streak. Most teams suffer noticeably from the departure of a Hei sman winner; the Trojans will be the first team ever to try to replace two, along with five other all-Americans. As usual after the kind of three-year run by Leinart, Bush and Co., this squad seems strictly partitioned from the awe-inspiring continuity of the past three, which really felt like the exact same team from year to year.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Pete Carroll's penchant for amassing freaky, freaky, good God freaky talent. Who, exactly, among the legions of blue chips will be the emergent s tar by November may be a question, but a string of top-ranked recruiting classes guarantees there will be an emergent star. The obvious guess: new QB John David Booty, who'll have the top three receivers from '05 back.
CRY ME A FUCKIN' RIVER, FAUNTLEROY: Onl y four starters are back on offense, but it's tough to complain when all four - receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith and linemen Sam Baker and Ryan Kalil - will be getting deserving all-America love from preseason mags, or when there are 46 caree r sta rts spread among offensive returnees officially listed as backups last year. Or when the new quarteback was a high school prodigy groomed for three years to step into the position whose previous occupants both won the Heisman Trophy.
Similarly, thou gh you can only officially count three as returning starters, there are six linebackers coming back with some starting experience, and that group doesn't even include Rey Maualauga, a freshman all-America last year. How the coaches plan to find time for him, Ke ith Rivers, Oscar Lua, Thomas Williams, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiava and, back from injury, Dallas Sartz is a major, um, problem.
IN ALL FIELDS, A LITTLE RAIN MUST FALL: SMQ will allow a tear, or at least a quick pour onto an L.A. sidewalk, for the departed running backs. This wouldn't be acceptable if Herschel Dennis - the leader, as a redshirt, of the 2003 co-mythical title team's three-headed freshman tailback monster, if you'll remember - hadn't blown out his knee, again, during the Spring, likely leaving some combination of potentially ineligible Chauncey Washington, injury-saddled Desmond Re ed and Michael Coleman or a slew of incoming freshmen headed by C.J. Gable, originally projected as a cornerback, to fill the void. We all expect one of those guys, or a couple of them together, to be the next Inevitable USC Tailback(s) of Doom, of course, but t his is less certain than if Dennis was suiting up again.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC SPRING PRACTICE-BASED CHATTER Come on, injuries? High profile departures? What, that little loss to Texas? Eh, whatever. What-EVER, man. The Trojans do not dwell on, or deign to recognize, loss. The Trojans do not doubt their superiority. The Trojans possess "the ability to continue to show who they are and not be affected by what's going on around them, or in the past, or what they're heading into." The Trojans are zen. The Trojans are eternal champions. The Trojans are zen.
REASON(S) FOR HOPE: Well, obviously.
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: Matt Leinart, Re ggie Bus h, LenDale White, Frostee Rucker, Fred Matua, Domonique Byrd, Winston Justice, Tatui Latusi and Darnell Bing were around for a whole bunch of wins and a couple championships. Now they're not.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... Clearly, Napoleon, rising from Elba: not altogether evil but dashing, formidable, aggressive and dangerously close to conquering the known world under a power-mad, authoritarian fist before a crushing defeat. Which makes Vince Young...who, class? If you said Lord Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington - or even the Furst von Wahlstatt, Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher, since SMQ is being so super generous - give yourself a gold star, and maybe try to get out a little more.
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Where victory had seemed assured, now spread the cry, "La Garde recule, sauve qui peut!"
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: 11-2, league championship, BCS mania, a little grumbling from Trojan fans spoiled by three straight years on the perilous wave of non-stop mythical title expectations. The departures make this definitely a mortal team again, but only barely.
Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green
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