UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS – BY THE NUMBERS:
COACH: Steve Sarkisian (2nd year)
2014 RECORD: 9-4 overall, 6-3 and tied for second place in the Pac-12 South
* Beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, 45-42
* Finished the 2014 season ranked #20 in the AP poll and #21 in the Coaches poll
* Preseason 2015 rankings: #6 by Sporting News, #8 by AP, #9 by the Los Angeles Times, and #10 by the Coaches poll
Quite a few things have been going down at USC lately, and not just due to classes beginning on that just-south-of-downtown-Los Angeles campus or that their 128th season of football is about to commence.
Everyone knows by now the recent incident at the “Salute to Troy” fundraiser, when coach Sarkisian embarrassed himself in front of important alumni and boosters by cursing, slurring his words, and badmouthing other teams on stage, then apologizing and stating at a subsequent press conference that he made a mistake with alcohol and medication.
Despite the opinions of some, this episode will mean one thing to this 2015 edition of the Trojan football team:
Absolutely nothing, as ‘SC is picked by virtually everyone to win the Pac-12 and in the minds of the “Trojan Family” reclaim their rightful place in representing the conference in the Rose Bowl on January 1st.
Although some key players, including all-everything defensive lineman Leonard Williams and receiver Nelson Agholor, are gone, eight starters return on both offense and defense, including the entire offensive line, featuring senior all-American center Max Tuerk.
However, the fate of this year’s bunch of Trojans will essentially be determined by the performance of four guys…
USC quarterback Cody Kessler (#6), one of the four guys mentioned as key players who will determine the Trojans’ fate. Center Max Tuerk is also pictured (#75)
If anyone disputes the notion that Cody Kessler is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, if not the best, I would like to meet him or her as it’s extremely difficult to argue with his 2014 numbers:
- A 69% completion percentage,
- 3,826 passing yards, and…
- Only five interceptions to go along with…
- A whopping 39 touchdown passes
This is clearly an NFL-ready player who will be taking the snaps from Tuerk at the Coliseum this season, and if the pattern continues will have an excellent chance to be one of the three young men in New York waiting to hear the announcement of who has won the Heisman Trophy in December.
For the record, it would be the eighth time that the Heisman has gone to a Trojan – seven if you don’t count the one vacated by Reggie Bush.
Another key offensive guy for ‘SC will be someone who’ll undoubtedly be Kessler’s number one target, JuJu Smith-Shuster, as the now-sophomore speedster pretty much set the world on fire as a freshman with his 54 catches and five TDs.
On the side of the ball that’s supposed to stop opponents from scoring, with Williams now wearing a New York Jets uniform, linebacker Su’a Cravens will be slated as the leader of that unit.
How can Cravens not be when his 17 tackles for loss (among his 68 overall tackles) led the team, with his five sacks and three interceptions – which also led the Trojans – not being too shabby, either?
Putting it another way: don’t be surprised if he declares for the NFL draft within a few weeks after the season is over, if things keep going for him the way they are going.
The real MVP of these USC Trojans, in my opinion, is a sophomore from nearby Gardena’s Serra High named Adoree Jackson, who hardly left the field as he made an immediate impact as a freshman at wide receiver (three touchdown catches, which will make him an equally dangerous target for Kessler along with Smith-Shuster), cornerback (49 tackles with four TFLs), and particularly kick returner (684 yards and 2 scores).
This versatility makes Jackson the most dangerous player ‘SC will have, as he can hurt opponents in multiple ways.
Another factor to this upcoming season which will motivate the Trojans is the fact that they are now free from the sanctions that were endured for the past five years, and with the top-level recruiting classes they signed despite that and the talent they have, USC is more than poised to make a run at being one of the four teams in the college football playoff.
One thing that may derail this run, however, will lie in being a part of a Pac-12 South Division in which four of the other five teams besides the Trojans have a legitimate chance of winning it – and having to play each of those teams as well as Oregon in Eugene (ranked above ‘SC at 7th in the AP poll), longtime rival Notre Dame in South Bend – never mind that 49-14 win last season as the Irish were so banged up, they were akin to a boxer fighting Mike Tyson in his prime with one hand tied behind his back – and always tough Stanford.
In other words, outside of their first two opponents, Arkansas State and Idaho, these Trojans have a tough schedule.
A longtime institution on the Trojan sidelines since 1967: USC’s Song Girls
As such, here is my official prediction for these Men of Troy:
USC’s talent and motivation level will be a deciding factor as the Trojans will have a record of ten wins and two losses, perhaps a 9-3 mark if injuries derail things.
One loss will come at the hands of Oregon while the other loss will be to one of these four teams: Stanford, Arizona State, Notre Dame, and UCLA.
The losses, however, will not stop ‘SC from winning the Pac-12 South and facing Oregon again in the Pac-12 title game.
The college football playoff? Nah, not this year as two losses will be too many.
As for whether or not they will be in Pasadena on January 1st, with their horse mascot Traveler, the Song Girls, and the Trojan Band marching down Colorado Boulevard that morning, well…
I know that every student, alumnus and fan of USC dearly wants me to say that their beloved Trojans will be there and to reserve their Rose Bowl tickets, but we’ll just have to see how the year unfolds as ANYTHING can happen.
To get all you “Trojan Family” members even more pumped and ready to “Fight On”, here’s a highlight video from last season, courtesy of YouTube:
Another one of the many USC traditions: Traveler, who gallops around the Coliseum field after every Trojan touchdown and has done so since 1961