…Stanford is “soft.” + memories of the infamous 2006 Rose Bowl

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog that was titled, “I think USC is back.” I meant every word in that blog knowing that USC’s schedule is one of the toughest but given how great Sam Darnold finished last season and knowing the returning starters on defense. I figured USC could make a playoff run, although the schedule is tricky and the lack of having a bye week could mean being worn down by November.

Continue reading …Stanford is “soft.” + memories of the infamous 2006 Rose Bowl

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I think USC is back. No I’m serious.

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To some, I’m the resident USC Trojans football fan. This whole “actually being a fan” of a team for longer than 1 year is weird to some. Being a USC fan the last 7 years has been stressful. Probation. Lane Kiffin. Steve Sarkisian. It was like Pat Haden had zero clue how to be a competent Athletic Director. Now? Everything is all roses (you see what I did there).

The beginning of last season was tough. I remember when USC blew a 4th quarter lead to Utah. I told my boy Jake that I was “done.” No seriously, I was over it. The last 3 years have been nothing but blown leads and potential. My USC breakdowns on Facebook have been a sight to behold. Everybody rushes to Facebook to see if I’ve had a mental breakdown or if I’m just there to brag (I know the folks in Seattle want my head after Darnold and Co went to Husky Stadium and ruined their perfect season). It’s an honor to rant about Clay Helton every Saturday and banter with everyone, honestly. I should probably relax this year. But I won’t… unless my mom tells me to.

The last time USC played an actual football game was January 2nd. I was there in the USC endzone at the Rose Bowl watching Sam Darnold become a legend while seeing Trace Mcsorley throw one of the worst passes of all-time, then watching former kicker Matt Boermeester (what an idiot, man) kick the game-winner. It all happened in the span of 15 minutes. Riveting to watch. Rose Bowl wins are fun (It was USC’s 25th rose bowl win in 32 appearances). Being there was amazing. Listening to conquest play for 20 minutes straight with tears in your eyes knowing that your squad might be back is sensational. It’s been a long road for the USC program. Shoutout to Paul Dee.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California

Flash forward to 8 months. The USC hype has been really…. strange. It began when I was in LAX the day after the Darnold Miracle. I had a USC shirt on and this random guy comes up to me saying “So National Title next year?” I laughed it off because in my head, I’m thinking “dude, USC just scored 17 unanswered 12 hours ago, let’s enjoy this,” but it being 8 month ago, it’s wild. I forgot how it feels to actually be excited for a season to unfold. The last time I was very excited for a USC football season was back in 2008. Oddly enough, that was the last time I thought USC could also win the entire thing (Oregon State smh). That was when Mark Sanchez wasn’t known for the butt fumble and when Sarkisian was known as this hot commodity because of his “offensive mind.”

Everybody already knows about Sam Darnold. However, I expect Rojo 2.0. (salute to the original ROJO, Ronald Johnson) to break out and have a monster season due to everybody focusing on Sam. The defense will be led by Preseason All-Americans Cameron Smith and Iman “Biggie” Marshall. I expect the defense to be a hell of a lot better than it was last year being that its in the 2nd year of a system.  It’s a beautiful thing to see all of the talent (youth and veterans) come together.

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But back to the hype. I hate how my team is being hyped. Not in this “I think we’re gonna fail” hype. But in the “holy ****, are they that good?” type of hype. It’s funny because 10 years ago, I would be “hell yeah, we’re good and better than you.” After the probation and the loss of scholarships, I forgot what this feels like. Them having the possibility of being this good is weird, but yet, it feels right.

I’ve been reading this stuff about Darnold and I’m nervous for him. Three offensive lineman are gone (two were All-Conference and All-Americans). Other than Deontay Burnett and Daniel Imatorbhebhe, most of these guys are talented but haven’t played a down yet. Maybe he’ll struggle a bit this year. He’s only started in 10 games. He’s really great. Trust me. I’ve seen the arm talent in person and it’s ridiculous. However, let’s temper the expectations with him. That includes myself too. Luckily in these interviews that I read and hear him speak, he doesn’t seem fazed by it. He seems ready for the spotlight.

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I keep it to a unbiased perspective when it comes to USC. Last year, I thought they’d go 8-4. They went 10-3 and won the Rose Bowl. I was close enough. If they didn’t start 1-3, they probably would have won the Pac-10+2 and play in the playoff, given how difficult their schedule was. This year, without a bye week, it gets tricky. Injuries could pile up and they could be done by November. September is a tough stretch with 3 ranked opponents (Stanford, Texas, Washington State) and a very tough Western Michigan squad. I don’t include Cal because the University of California hasn’t beaten a USC team since I was in the 6th grade (That was Matt Leinart’s 3rd or 4th start, I believe). I still don’t know if Clay Helton is a good coach, but I feel better about him calling the shots more than I did last year at this time.

APTOPIX Rose Bowl Football
Southern California wide receiver Deontay Burnett catches a touchdown pass in front of Penn State safety Marcus Allen during the second half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Am I nervous as a fan? Hell yeah, I am. I really think this could be the year but the schedule does this team no favors. Nice job, Larry Scott. I’ll say it here though; if USC goes undefeated in September, there is a great chance that they’ll be in the Pac-10+2 title game. They could be back in Pasadena for the playoff game January 1st and I’ll most likely be in attendance (maybe my mom will pay for my ticket this time…kidding, kidding) again.

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I’m so excited to see this squad play all fall. It’ll be a fun season, at least I hope so. I think USC is back. We’ll find out in a couple of weeks. I believe in Sam. I believe in Clay Helton. I believe in Tee. I believe in Clancy. What a difference a year makes. The optimism is high. Prove that you’re back. Win the conference. Get back to Pasadena. FTFO. Beat the Broncos.

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An Uneducated Guess: the QBs of the 2014 NFL Draft Class by Kyle Madson

I am not an NFL draft expert. I do not have the time or the resources to be an NFL draft expert. I don’t have film to study or a DVR to watch recorded games. What I do have are bits and pieces of games I watched on Saturdays, as well as a bunch of murky narratives I cooked up in my head, based mostly on the art of comparing current players to past players.

Therefore, I will be putting together several lists containing my thoughts on some of the top NFL prospects in the 2014 draft class.
The following is my less-than-educated take on the top 14 NFL quarterback draft prospects based on CBS Sports’ rankings. Take everything I say with a grain of salt, and chase it with a shot of penicillin.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, JR
Bridgewater is widely considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Given that he plays at a smaller school and isn’t the clear-cut best quarterback in this draft, he will likely be a force on Sundays. Plus, what he lacks in football abilities, he makes up for with an NFL-ready name.

Derek Carr, Fresno State, rSR
No. See: Carr, David.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, rSO
Johnny Football is the poster child for college stars whose on-field dominance is over-shadowed by his off-field escapades. If he can keep his head on straight, he’s Russell Wilson. If he can’t, he’s Todd Marinovich.

Blake Bortles, Central Florida, rJR
I watched one game of his and all Brian Griese would talk about is his athleticism. When athleticism and a big arm is all a quarterback has going for him, chances are it’s not going to translate to the NFL gridiron. Griese was throwing around names like RGIII and Steve Young. I see Jake Locker … at BEST. Teams shouldn’t bother drafting this guy.

AJ McCarron, Alabama, rSR
An average college quarterback that rode a couple of elite running backs, some dominant defenses and one of the best coaches ever to unparalleled success. Bottom line – he isn’t that good. Don’t get caught up in his intangibles – he’s basically Matt Cassel.

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois, SR
I haven’t watched this guy play one down of football, but he’s played four years at Eastern Illinois, which naturally means he’s going to be the best QB in this draft. For the love of all that is holy, take this guy with the No. 1 pick because he has all the makings to be the steal of the draft.

Zach Mettenberger, LSU, rSR
Stop it. Zach Mettenberger stinks.

David Fales, San Jose State, SR
Played in a pass-happy offense in a non-AQ conference. Mr. Fales, Colt Brennan is on line 1.

Brett Smith, Wyoming, JR
Never watched him, but Garoppolo already has the Cinderella story of the draft wrapped up. It’s probably time Smith start looking for work in a different profession.

Tajh Boyd, Clemson, rSR
I feel so bad for Boyd. I was so certain he was going to be a monster this year, enter the NFL and be Tom Brady. Alas, since I am always wrong, he turned out to be not as great as expected and will likely fizzle out in the League. Sorry, Tajh.

Aaron Murray, Georgia, rSR
My man-crush on Murray will doom him to the same fate as Boyd. His NFL ceiling has gone from Aaron Rodgers to Alex Smith.

Stephen Morris, Miami (FL), SR
I found myself scratching my head a lot watching Stephen Morris play quarterback. He isn’t ready for Sundays and will not be very good. However, he does have a big arm so he’ll stick around as a backup for awhile.

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech, rSR
No. He went to Virginia Tech. That’s a big enough red flag for me, and it should be a big enough red flag for NFL scouts.

Garrett Gilbert, SMU, rSR
My lasting memory of Garrett Gilbert is the 2010 National Championship game. Yuck.

If you have a question or comment, leave one on here or tweet me at @Madsports8 .

USC Football, I love you forever

buck allen swag

If you would have told me a month ago that the USC Trojans would be playing a national televised game on ABC on Saturday Night against Stanford, I would have laughed at you. Seriously. Not just laughed. I probably would have told you to “kiss my ass” and have a slap cam on you.

If you would have told me that Javorius Allen would be called by his actual first name, and not his nickname “Buck,” and would actually be playing (and playing like we need to start the #BUCKFORHEISMAN2014 campaign) instead of riding the bench because the old coach didn’t want to play him, I’d be confused on why he was even playing in the first place.

If you would have told me that Ed Orgeron would actually look like a legit head coach and have the USC Trojans playing like a top 20 team in the country with JUST 47 scholarship players, I’d give you a confused look. Seriously. Knowing Coach O’s history as a head coach, I would have been like, “What the hell are you smoking?”

But here we are. It’s about to be the 3rd weekend in the month of November and USC is heading into a showdown on Saturday Night Football against the #4th ranked Stanford “A Tree is our mascot” Cardinal.  As a fan, this season has been ridiculous, and yet SC is still relevant. Once Lane Kiffin was fired for being Lane Kiffin, this team has looked like a different team. Watching SC now is actually fun. Win or lose (They’ve lost one game since Coach O has taken over, btw), this team just looks confident and loose, something that wasn’t seen when Kiff was coaching.

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the stepfather of the program

No, I’m not saying Lane Kiffin isn’t a bad coach, Kiffin stans (Okay, maybe I am because since the Arizona game last year in the desert, I don’t know what the hell happened to Lane Kiffin. It’s like he left his own corpse in Tuscon ),  I’m simply saying that clearly, his style of coaching wasn’t working for these guys. It’s one thing to be uptight like, say Nick Saban. But in the midst of Saban’s childish temper tantrums, he’s actually a leader. It’s clearly obvious that he (Kiffin) wasn’t a leader. And while Coach O might be an interim head coach, but he’s shown leadership, which is exactly what this team has needed.

Coach O’s motto has been “One heartbeat, One team.” And that’s what it is. Let’s be honest here. 47 scholarship players. Injuries to almost everyone including all-world stud, Marqise Lee. Yet, no complaints or excuses about it from Coach O and the team about it. They just go out, and control what they can control on the field. Think about it, how bad as USC played at the beginning of the season, the horrible loss to Washington State, and the game that got Kiffin fired in Tempe, USC is actually 7-3. In fact, If Andre Heidari could get himself out of his feelings and make kicks, USC would be ranked right now (It’s probably better that they aren’t. Because we aren’t in #GodsConference).

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So Saturday. Right…. Saturday. I was watching the Champions Classic two nights ago, and I came across the commercial:

and needless to say, I didn’t bop. I did the money dance.  USC hasn’t beaten Stanford in 4 years. At some point, I’m expecting that to end. Last year, I might have jinxed my boys with this,(https://shaunhoward.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/matt-barkley-its-time/), but it’s a new year. Yes, I expect the football nerds   to show up and play well. Because that’s what Stanford does. They play their game. Power. Power. Play Action. Hogan quarterback keeps. Power.  Stanford’s running back last week had 45 carries against Oregon. 45.

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But do I expect the Trojans to play well? Hell yes. Do I expect USC to win? Hell yeah, I do. One of my Twitter followers told me a month ago that even in dark times, SC will always rise up. And that’s happening. With everything that’s gone wrong, this, this season looks like maybe it’s gonna go right. Win or lose on Saturday night, I’m already proud of how these guys and how they’ve proved a lot of people wrong, and have actually fought on under Coach O.

I’m ready for Saturday. I’m ready to watch Cody ball out. I’m ready to this team grow and show the country that no matter how bad the NCAA screwed us over (Seriously though. The NCAA is full of you know what. Reggie Bush’s parents get a house, not him and USC gets the near death penalty. Miami has a dude in the program, and they only lose 9 scholarships for three years. Penn State got their scholarships BACK. But USC can’t get theirs back? Lol, I bet the NCAA is sick that USC is gonna play in another bowl this year even though we’re MAKING them money for being a somewhat decent team for being good with 45 guys. Kiss it, Mark Emmert), no matter the drama surrounding the program and AD Pat Haden looking for the next coach, and all the injuries, that USC is still here. We’re still relevant, and we’re coming for your ass, Stanford (and maybe the rest of America in due time).

It’s time to watch this team party in the endzone. No matter what happens on Saturday, I love you USC. Forever and ever. Fight On. Beat the Farm.

BUCK ALLEN!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @kingshaundiz