In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.
For the record: At last Tuesday’s Pac-12 Media Day at the W Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton said, “I love USC because you know what the standard is? Championships. You can be at USC and win every game but one. If it’s the last one, it’s looked at as a bad season. That’s being at a special place.”
For the record, the coach couldn’t be referring to last season’s mini-season of going 5-0 in the Pac-12 South Division and then losing to Oregon, 31-24, in the Pac-12 Championship Game in the friendly confines of the Coliseum, could he? Referring to USC as a special place, what makes it a special place is that it's about winning championships, not just appearing in them. It's historically what separates USC from the rest.
For the record – Part 2: At last Tuesday’s Pac-12 Media Day, Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton said, “You can have an undefeated regular season and win a Pac-12 championship game, and everybody is sad. That’s a special place to be. So, when you’re at a place that’s won 11 national championships, you know the standard of excellence and you know what’s demanded. We welcome that. We welcome it as players, we welcome it as coaches. That’s why we all came to USC.”
For the record, heading into his sixth season, Clay Helton knows he has just won one conference title (2017) and his teams have not made a single College Football Playoff appearance, which he understands is why he's on the hot seat. If USC is the special place that Helton says it is, and the rabid and supportive fan base know it is, this is the season to enhance that special place, so help me Dr. Carol Folt and Mike Bohn.
For the record – Part 3: At last Tuesday’s Pac-12 Media Day, Trojans’ head coach Clay Helton said, “I’ve always felt if we’re successful, our conference is successful. Yes, we have a responsibility at our program to be able to put ourselves at those championship expectations, live up to those standards.”
For the record, the Trojans under Helton as permanent head coach have been to four bowl games, and the coach’s record is 1-3, having lost to Wisconsin in the 2015 Holiday Bowl (23-21), beaten Penn State in the 2017 Rose Bowl (52-49), lost in the 2017 Cotton Bowl to Ohio State (24-7), and lost to Iowa in the 2019 Holiday Bowl (49-24). Is this record in part why the Pac-12 has the weak reputation that it currently has? Does this speak to “I’ve always felt if we’re successful, our conference is successful”?
For the record – Part 4: At last Tuesday’s Pac-12 Media Day, Helton also said, “To have our fans and our alumni back in the stands, that’s part of college football. That passion, that excitement, game day excitement, the band and traveler coming out of the tunnel with 80,000, 90,000 around.”
For the record, the last time the Trojans had 90,000 or more fans in the Coliseum was in 2012 against Notre Dame and Oregon, which each game drew a capacity count of 93,607. More recently, the last time USC had fans in the Coliseum stands was the 2019 season when Troy had six home games. The renovated Coliseum, whose capacity was and remains 77,500, had the following 2019 home attendance numbers: Fresno State (57,329), Stanford (62,109), Utah (55,719) Arizona (53,826), Oregon (63,011), UCLA (64,156). The average 2019 home attendance was 59,358. The last time USC Coliseum attendance was over 80,000 was in 2017 against Texas (84,714) and UCLA (82,407), respectively.
Preseason rankings: Here is how some high-profile media see the 2021 Trojans nationally and in the Pac-12 South Division race: Pro Football Network (10th Nat./ 1st P12 S); Sporting News (12th Nat.)/ 1st P12 S); Phil Steele (13 Nat./ 1st P12 S); Pro Football Focus (16 Nat./ 1st P12 S); CollegeFootballNews.com (16th Nat./ 1st P12 S); Athlon (18 Nat./ 2nd P12 S); CBSSports.com (19 Nat./ 1st P12 S); ESPN.com (21st Nat./ 1st P12 S), Lindy’s (22 Nat./ 2nd P12 S).
For the record, when you look at it on the average, the Trojans are ranked 16th nationally and are the near unanimous pick to win the Pac-12 South Division.
The Golden State: As a point of information, the 2021 Trojans roster lists 72 players from California.
For the record, the 2021 Trojans roster has 17 players from the state of Texas.
The Texas Trojans: FYI, those 17 Texans include S Xanion Alfred; TB Darwin Barlow; OL Ty Buchanan; TB Brandon Campbell; OL Casey Collier; TE Malcolm Epps; OL Courtland Ford; S Xamarion Gordon; CB Dorian Hewett; RB Keaontay Ingram; WR Chase Lock; WR Joseph Manjack IV; TE Lake McRee; WR K.D. Nixon; PK Alex Stadthaus; and S Chris Thompson Jr.
For the record, the USC coaching staff includes Texans Clay Helton (HC); Graham Harrell (OC/QBs); Seth Doege (TEs) Mike Jinks (RBs); Clay McGuire (OL); Craig Naivar (S); and Sean Snyder (SPTs). For the record, the remaining coaching staff members include Californians Donte Williams (DB); Keary Colbert (WRs), and Vic So’oto (DL). If you’re counting, that’s seven Texans and three Californians.
From the press box…
The Gentleman Clay quote book: “We were very proud of our team last season, winning 5 games in a row, getting to the Pac-12 Championship Game and being a win away from the College Football Playoff while navigating through the pandemic. But we were sick with the way it ended in that Pac-12 Championship Game. What that did, however, was create a very hungry team and coaching staff for 2021.”
The Gentleman Clay quote book – Part 2: “We saw what kind of team we were able to build last season and then in the off-season we saw the results of our recruiting and the staff additions we made. That should lead to a very dynamic 2021 season. It is an exciting time for Trojan football.”
The Gentleman Clay quote book – Part 3: “I feel really good about our team in all phases of the game. Our offense is hard to defend and features one of the nation’s premier quarterbacks, an outstanding receiver corps, some veteran running backs who are now healthy and most of the line coming back.”
The Gentleman Clay quote book – Part 4: “Our defense improved tremendously last year and should continue that way in 2021, with one of the country’s best secondaries, some fierce edge rushers and some solid play up front and at linebacker. Our special teams were terrific last year, and we expect more of that this season; the punter crushes the ball and our kicker performed very well as a true freshman.”
The Gentleman Clay quote book - Part 5: “Between the always-tough Pac-12 opponents and 3 outstanding non- conference teams, this schedule gives us an opportunity to create an unbelievable resume. Each week will be a challenge. We’ll need to bring our ‘A’ game every time we take the field.”
The post-game show…
Running around the Bush: Not surprisingly, the 2005 Heisman Trophy will not be returned to former Trojans All-America tailback Reggie Bush, as the NCAA will not consider reversing penalties or previously vacated records from past years based on recent changes to name, image and likeness (NIL) regulations, which went into effect recently.
Running around the Bush - Part 2: Reggie Bush has one option still open to him - besides any perceived legal recourse - and that is for the Heisman Trust to take it upon themselves, which they can because they are a private entity, and just return the award back to him. If I were Bush, I wouldn't hold my breath.
Jersey’s revisited: The Trojans are the only FBS school never to have had surnames on the back of its jerseys.
It adds up: The Trojans seven home games are its most since 2017.
The last time: Troy’s game at Washington State on Sept. 18 will be its first trip up to Pullman since 2017.
The last time – Part 2: The Trojans home game against BYU on Nov. 27 will be the first time since 2009 (when it hosted Arizona) that USC will end its regular season against a team other than UCLA or Notre Dame and the first since 1999 (when it hosted Louisiana Tech) doing so against a non-conference foe other than Notre Dame.
What a waste: USC’s home game against Oregon State on Sept. 25 is the Zero Waste Game, part of the Pac-12’s Zero Waste Challenge.
Leave it to Beavers: When the Trojans host Oregon State on Sept. 25, it will be their first meeting since 2018 (and first in the Coliseum since 2017).
The call-in show…
Caller No. 1: GK, what’s your take on Oklahoma and Texas leaving for the SEC and how do you think it will affect USC in the long run?
Caller No. 1, no question that college football is in a tumultuous transition and breaking all norms and some traditions. It’s all where the money is, the prestige is, and what’s best in self-serving interest. All of which take us to USC. Honestly, football being king in the Pac-12, forget about what’s been going on with the Trojans’ football program (if you possibly can) the last ten years. It’s all about the brand, the history, and Los Angeles television ratings. Like it or not, USC still is the perception of West Coast football with all due respect to Oregon.
With the recent events with Oklahoma and Texas, there is no question that all options should be on the table for USC’s future in the Pac-12. The Trojans, thanks to horrendous leadership from Pat Haden and Lynn Swann, tried to play Pac-12 team ball, and it hurt USC in the long run. It’s now up to athletic director Mike Bohn to be bold and do what’s best for USC no matter what that future will bring.
Caller No. 2: Gregster, I recently got into a debate with a friend of mine who attended Ohio State. In case I get into another, do you have some killer USC football historical stats that could make a winning argument for me?
Caller No. 2, sure, how about these numbers: 11 national championships, 34 bowl victories, 169 All-Americans, six Heisman Trophy winners, 520 NFL players, 83 NFL 1st round draft picks, five No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, and 22 Academic All-Americans. That should suffice for your immediate needs.
Caller No. 3: Katz, this past week, former Trojans running back Todd McNair reached a settlement with the NCAA to end his defamation suit. Your take, please.
Caller No. 3, three cheers for Todd McNair!!! After ten years of battling the NCAA over Reggie Bush related sanctions, McNair never gave up on his long journey through the court system. Whether McNair was totally innocent or “knew something” isn’t the point at this point. The McNair case shows the amount of power and money the NCAA has in dealing with court cases. I am happy that McNair reached hopefully a seven- figure victory and sad that he had to waste the last decade dealing with the physical and mental toll it had to take. I will say that if the coach didn’t believe he was in the right, no way would he have carried the fight for as long as he did.
Caller No. 4: Gregorio, I hear the Trojans Marching Band is going to be relocated from the “sun” bleachers to back within the student section behind the Trojans bench, is that true?
Caller No. 4, I have heard the rumor, but I have not been able to confirm it. I have tried calling the band office several times to see if there are any legs to this rumor. I do remember the old days when the band was placed behind the USC bench, and it seemed so natural the TMB be placed with the students. I would actually like to see that happen again. When the band was sitting in the “sun deck” bleachers, it was like they were banished. Hopefully, if there is a move back to sit with fellow students, it will be a decision that is well received by all.
Caller No. 5: Greggie, did you ever buy a “map of the stars” from a Hollywood vendor and drive by selected celebrity houses?
Caller No. 5, good question. I had never done that until maybe seven or eight years ago. It may have been a bit longer, but I never really had interest. One day, I was driving in Hollywood with my girlfriend, her daughter, and my girlfriend’s mother. I actually thought it creepy driving by celebrity houses, but I agreed to buy a map and do something I had never done. To be honest, it was kind of fun trying to read the map and find the houses. I mean, we drove up to Jennifer Aniston’s house, over to Dr. Phil’s place, and past a number of others. Would I do it again? Probably not, but was interesting.
The last word: Former Trojans quarterback Aaron Corp, who later transferred to the University of Richmond, has been named the offensive coordinator at his high school alma mater, Orange (Calif.) Lutheran for the 2021 season. Aaron most recently coached at Norfolk State as the quarterback coach and passing game coordinator.