USC fans seem most concerned about the front seven coming into the season. What are the main concerns and how do you see them affecting the game?
The two main concerns for me are the defensive line and the inexperience of Max Browne. USC lost a lot of their defensive lineman in the offseason and a couple of injuries at the position have the line extremely thin. USC has moved a couple of players to d-line from o-line and with games being won in the trenches a lot, it’s my #1 concern for USC. I have a small concern for Browne since he has virtually no experience but I think he is going to have one heck of a season. He lacks mobility but can still escape the pocket and is arm is extremely strong. He has the strongest arm of any USC QB since Carson Palmer. However, that first few series against Alabama might be a little ugly.
Secret weapons are always fun, i.e., we know about JuJu, but who is or what is going to surprise teams this year [It can be a position grouping, a side of the ball, a player etc,.]
Two freshmen stand out to me: ATH Jack Jones and WR Michael Pittman Jr. Jones committed to USC on NSD and it was believed that Alabama was one of his finalist. He is going to play primarily on defense but Jones is a special player and the Trojans could create some plays for hime (like Adoree’ Jackson). I expect to also see Jones on kickoffs and punt returns this year. Pittman Jr is the son of former Bucs RB Michael Pittman and at 6’4”, he has the chance to become a monster for the Trojans. He is going to be a matchup problem for a lot of defenses because of his size and speed, and if he plays well early on, the Trojans might have a dynamic 1-2 in their wide receiver group with him and Smith-Schuster.
Almost four years removed from his firing at the airport, how do Trojan fans feel about Lane Kiffin, the Alabama championship offensive coordinator, and how do they view his tenure as USC head coach?
Besides that 2011 season where they went 10-2 but were ineligible for a bowl, Kiffin failed big time as head coach at USC. Since he worked under Carroll, I think fans expected multiple National Championships under Kiffin because of his past with the team but it was a total train wreck.
Which freshman do you see making an immediate impact this year, and which ones should we expect to see against Alabama on September 3rd?
I mentioned Jones and Pittman Jr. but I also think Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy have a chance to make a big impact for the Trojans this year. Both are defensive lineman and as I mentioned earlier, the Trojans are really thin on the DL so both youngsters should have an opportunity to play early. Clay Helton has mentioned each during fall camp as guys that have stood out.
Without knowing who Alabama is going to start at QB, how is the Trojans defense preparing for the Tide?
They are preparing to face a strong physical offensive line with weapons at RB and WR by having physical practices. Although there hasn’t been a lot of tackling in practice, USC has done a lot of drills by working in the trenches and a lot of 1 on 1 drills. Obviously it helps that USC knows Lane Kiffin very well so they a lot of his tendencies on offense now it’s just can they go out and execute.
What is the biggest mismatch in USC's favor? Alabama's?
For Alabama, their OL against the Trojans DL for the reasons I have stated above. (depth and experience). For USC, I think it’s the number of weapons they have at WR against Alabama’s secondary. The Tide have a talented secondary but USC has 6 or 7 receivers alone that can become matchup problems and if you throw in Jones and Jackson from the defensive, that is a heck of a lot of speed on the outside for Browne to play with.
The 1970 USC - Alabama game, and the legend of Sam "Bam" Cunningham, is obviously an historical meeting not only for college football, but for larger American society (although perhaps the game is a bit overblown, since Alabama had begun the process of integration in any event.) That said, how large does that game loom in Trojan lore? Is it a seminal, legendary occasion that is still remembered or was the game more a product of its era, an era that would be over the very next season when a slowly-integrating Alabama team paid a visit to the Coliseum?
I think the game is pretty big. I remember learning about the game from my father when I was young and I think it was a bigger deal because of how successful Cunningham did at USC and against Bama on that day. I believe the LA Times published an article about it this year. With this matchup this weekend, there has been a lot of talk about that game in 1970.
How does the Trojans fan base feel about Clay Helton? What about the hiring process that saw yet another USC assistant promoted from within with no real consideration given to those outside the program?
USC fans like Clay Helton because he isn’t into the glamour of being in Los Angeles and he comes off as so humble and thankful for the job. It was a very interesting decision by Pat Haden to hire Helton without really interviewing anybody else and Helton is going to be thrown into the fire if he doesn’t have a good first full season with the Trojans. USC fans are quick to jump ship on a coach and with the past USC assistants that become HC’s having failed, Helton needs to do well in year 1 in order for the decision to look successful.
What is our final score, MVP, and how do we get there?
24-21, Alabama. It’s not going to be a blowout and I think a lot of people are overlooking USC. It’s going to be a great back and forth game with Bama winning on a late FG. MVP: Ridley.