This years team is burdened with the weight of a 5-7 2018 performance and the future of their head coach, Clay Helton. The shear crossroads is enough to keep a team defocused. There is pressure from a deeply troubled fan base. The constant “Show Me” from the media and the academic side of the university under constant pressure to get their act together. This by itself would be enough reason to cast doubt on the USC Trojan football season in 2019. The problem we are all facing is that the talent on this team would be talking about the playoffs anywhere else. They have some new coaches but not all of the staff was replaced. There is extreme confidence coming out of the offensive side of the equation but again “Show Me”.
This leads us to the two key areas that all championship teams are made of. It’s not the offense. It’s the defense and overall commitment to disciplined play. To be mentally tougher than your opponent and all other threats to your mission. When 2018 ended there was chaos. The program was in melt down outside of Heritage Hall but inside those walls it was quiet. Yes, some coaches we asked to leave and some left on their own. This was a team that would be watching the bowl games as they were one win short of qualifying. The story of 2018. One this and one that and who knows.
Today we begin a new month. The crossroads and thus the direction of this years team is going to be decided over the next 4 weeks. Count on it. What they do right now will impact how they enter the coliseum on August 31st at 7:30 pm. They can ill afford to kickoff the season against what should be a good Fresno State Bulldog team. FSU is ranked by some in the top 20 and fall behind let alone lose. You cannot find the Trojans anywhere near that rare air. But I think that’s a good thing. I believe the pre season hype over the last few years and even prior to Helton has hurt this program with the exception of the amazing Sam Darnold run it was hard to watch.
The Helton era has been wrought with hype and high rankings in the spring and fall camps. Nothing to show for it but hope. We’ll soon find out whether USC was wise to give Clay Helton another crack. There’s some optimism around the offense with Graham Harrell taking over as OC, but on the whole, oddsmakers don’t have a lot of confidence that the staff can get the most out of its hyper-talented recruits. The Trojans are a lowly fifth to win the Pac-12 title, though they should start the season on the right foot, currently sitting as 13.5-point favorites to beat up on Fresno State.
Those in the know must be hoping as I have a hard time thinking that Coach Tedford isn’t going to be ready. Yes this is a home game for the Trojans but the Bulldogs are well known and supported in southern California so the fans could be a mix on their side as well. This is their bowl game and its right where they want it on the stage of the newly remodeled Coliseum. This one is going to be interesting. An entire season rests on the first 3-4 games for SC. A rough start and we know the rest of this story and thus the crossroads facing this years team are daunting.
Then there is Las Vegas and all those who seem to have that edge of detail no one else can gather. They have to Trojans (today) winning fairly easily as you can see above. That spread will likely tighten up as the other change to fall camp by coach Helton was that after August 17th this place is closed to all. No more press interviews post practice. No more pictures. Just the staff and what could be a very good Trojan roster on paper. Will this staff rise up and do what hasn’t been done under Helton and develop a team from top to bottom? Will this defense step up and stop the run? This is why we love college football over all other sports.