USC: Alabama Crimson Tide

Schlabach: Five games I want to to see

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

CB Tony Brown suffers shoulder injury

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cornerback Tony Brown, No. 11 in the ESPN 300 and the No. 2 prospect in Texas, suffered an injury to his left shoulder on Tuesday and likely will not play in the Under Armour All-America Game.

Brown, of Beaumont Ozen High School, was hurt while reaching to defend a pass in a non-contact coverage drill. He received medical attention at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and was transported from the practice facility by cart, his head buried in his hands and his arm in a sling.

The 6-foot, 196-pound Brown, rated as the No. 4 cornerback nationally, is scheduled to announce his college decision during the 4 p.m. telecast of the Under Armour Game Thursday on ESPN.

Brown made official recruiting visits to Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, USC and LSU.

He graduated from high school early in order to enroll in January at his college of choice. Brown is an elite sprinter and plans to compete in football and track and field in college.

Irish TE commit Luatua wants to see USC 

December, 28, 2013
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ORLANDO -- Let the season of indecision begin.

Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada), the No. 1-rated tight end nationally who committed to Notre Dame on Dec. 16, said he’s interested in looking more closely at hometown USC.

Can USC climb back into national title contention?

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
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With the release of the first edition of the BCS standings, we ask what's on the minds of the most diehard USC fans: Can the Trojans climb back into the national championship picture?

The answer is, it's possible . . . if they win out.

If the Trojans win their remaining seven games, they could still be one of the top two teams in the BCS standings come December and in Miami come January. They sit at No. 10 right now, without yet having played a team the computers or pollsters consider elite, and coming down the stretch the Trojans could play three games against teams in the current BCS top 10.

They have upcoming regular-season matchups with Oregon and Notre Dame and could potentially square off in a Pac-12 championship game with either Oregon a second time or Oregon State (if the Beavers beat the Ducks in the Civil War). If they won each of those games they would jump at least those three teams -- No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oregon State.

They wouldn't be a lock for the No. 2 spot, of course (Oregon, Notre Dame and OSU would need to continue their winning ways and Kansas State would need to lose), but four of the remaining teams in the current top 10 -- Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina -- play in the same conference (SEC), so further attrition seems likely. And a 12-1 USC team that began the year as the preseason AP No. 1, lost its only game in mid-September, and finished strong against quality opponents would seem to have a resume strong enough to compete with any other one-loss teams, even ones from the SEC.

So it's possible. If they win out.

But is it a lock? No.

First, they need help. Kansas State has yet to lose a game and has already beaten its toughest opponent -- No. 9-ranked Oklahoma. Jumping them would be unlikely were they to remain undefeated.

Second, they need to get better. The Trojans have demonstrated significant deficiencies through the first six games of the season -- including a 57th-ranked offense and the highest penalty average among all FBS teams – that would make beating a team like Oregon twice a seriously tall order.

In order to win out, in order to have any hope of beating teams like Oregon, Notre Dame and Oregon State, USC will have to show real improvement in both areas and continue to perform at a very high level on defense.

It’s possible they can do that. And the end of the season gets very intriguing if they pull it off. But don’t hold your breath. Not yet. Let them beat Oregon (at least once) first.


Can USC get off the canvas?

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
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BarkleyBob Stanton/Icon SMIMatt Barkley and the Trojans must now look to rebound after being upset by Stanford.
The good news is there's no longer a need to regurgitate comparisons between USC in 2012 and USC in 2005. In 2005, the Trojans beat Stanford by 30. In 2012, the Cardinal forced a fourth-quarter tap out.

The 2005 team went undefeated in the regular season and lost an epic clash with Texas for the national title. The 2012 team got pushed around in Game 3.

While USC's turnovers and penalties were notable at Stanford, they were only foot-notable. The primary narrative was how USC got whipped on both lines, most obviously in the fourth quarter when the screws tightened. Stanford asserted itself and the Trojans wilted.

There are many ways to lose, and some losses are easier to rationalize. Last year, Oregon opened with a loss to LSU. Sure, there was a false narrative -- LSU dominated those gimmicky Ducks! -- but the true narrative was Oregon played sloppily and LSU did not. You can rationalize a sloppy loss because you can envision corrected mistakes and better ball security.

It's more difficult to rationalize USC's loss to Stanford. Yes, the absence of center Khaled Holmes, maybe the best offensive lineman in the conference, was significant. Still, if you came to the game with no preconceptions, you'd be hard-pressed to imagine how the Trojans might reverse the scoreboard in a rematch.

But the purpose here is not to read the entrails of the Trojans' 21-14 defeat that knocked them from No. 2 to No. 13. It's to consider the present and to speculate on the future for USC in 2012.

The present is a test of the Trojans' heart and backbone. It starts with the leadership of Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff, then trickles down to quarterback Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald, the guys who came back as seniors to take care of "unfinished business."

The point A after the loss, however, was a USC failure. The Trojans' postgame despondency, particularly Barkley's, was perfectly understandable. It was normal. But exceptional people, the sorts who are supposed to lead great teams, don't do despondency. They don't do feel sorry for yourself.

Don't hate me for going here, but this is what you do.

Yeah, I pulled out Tim Tebow's news conference speech after Florida's embarrassing 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 27, 2008. While I know Tebow is a Rorschach test in this country, what can't be denied is his ability to inspire those who compete beside him, who wear the same uniform.

My expectation is Barkley, after regaining his composure, will deliver a similar message to his teammates. The message is this: We will get back to work. We will rededicate. We will fight with everything we have to get everything we can from this season. And if we do this, good things will happen.

(Read full post)

USC needs to win pretty

September, 5, 2012
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After inspecting film of USC's 49-10 win against Hawaii, coach Lane Kiffin lamented some "normal first-game sloppiness" and was unhappy with his inconsistent offensive line play, which surprised him after the line was sharp in preseason camp.

But an area that surely caused him to raise a worried eyebrow was the struggles at the cornerback spot opposite Nickell Robey. With Torin Harris out with an injury -- one of three defensive starters who didn't play against the Warriors -- Anthony Brown, Brian Baucham and Kevon Seymour were beaten a number of times.

Truth is, it wasn't a big deal against a green Hawaii offense adopting a new scheme. USC had two interceptions and allowed only 208 passing yards. But it could be a big deal Saturday against Syracuse in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

[+] EnlargeLane Kiffin
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellTrojans coach Lane Kiffin knows his team must play better against Syracuse than it did in its opener.
Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib put up huge numbers in the Orange's nail-biting, 42-41 loss to Northwestern. He completed 44 of 65 passes for 470 yards and four touchdowns, with all the touchdowns coming in the second half. He also rushed for 30 yards.

"Their quarterback made a ton of plays," Kiffin said.

USC pounded Syracuse 38-17 last season, and the Orange welcome back only 12 starters. They are again picked to finish near the bottom of the Big East. But it's difficult to scoff at 596 yards gained against a major conference foe.

Kiffin admitted that his defense "didn't get tested a lot" against Hawaii. That could change against Syracuse.

Although the Trojans are overwhelming favorites, they also are in a beauty contest at the top of the polls. All wins are not equal. The Trojans need to win impressively to impress voters.

Consider that they fell from No. 1 to No. 2 behind Alabama after the Crimson Tide stomped Michigan. That seems reasonable, seeing that Hawaii is mediocre to bad and Michigan was ranked No. 8, but the Trojans are the first No. 1 team to drop in the AP poll after winning a game by 35-plus points since Penn State in 1997, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

So surrendering a bunch of yards and points against Nassib and allowing Syracuse to hang around late in the second half could further hurt USC's standing. Don't think that matters? It will if pollsters and computers are trying to make distinctions in December between multiple unbeaten and one-loss teams. Recall: The BCS still yokes college football for two more seasons.

One way the Trojans can keep Nassib in check is by keeping him and the Orange's up-tempo, no-huddle offense on the sideline. The best way to do that is to run the ball. Although the Trojans piled up some nice passing numbers against Hawaii, the running game sputtered with just 81 yards at 3.5 per carry. Last year's starting tailback, Curtis McNeal, got only five carries, and Penn State transfer Silas Redd got nine.

Kiffin said that didn't indicate a change in the backfield pecking order.

"That wasn't on purpose," Kiffin said.

The Trojans probably aren't on upset alert. But when you're in the national championship chase, it's not only about winning it's about winning pretty. So it's important for "first-game sloppiness" to transform into second-game efficiency and dominance.

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