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Analysis | College Week Two Football Preview: We Ask Again – Is USC Back?

Technically, Rice’s 66-14 defeat on Saturday marked the beginning of Southern California’s last attempt to reclaim its place of importance in college football.

The Trojans have been there and have done a lot in the past decade and a half, long before Lincoln Riley emerged in Los Angeles as the program’s fourth full-time coach since Pete Carroll’s return to the NFL.

(USC was already there and did so even before Riley emerged as the East Carolina Wonder offensive coordinator. Yes, it was a short time.)

While a lot of things have changed since the Carol/Matt Lennart/Reggie Bush peak in mid-August, the Trojans have always found themselves off course against Stanford — which Riley will face in his first collegiate game on Saturday.

The Cardinal has won 10 of 16 against USC since 2007, inflicting a disproportionate amount of damage on the Trojans and various training systems in that period.

Even with USC and UCLA, Pac-12 football was pretty bleak

There was Stanford’s 24-23 win as an underdog by 41 points in 2007, which did more than any other result to show that USC had some weakness years later when it seemed like none were. A 55-21 defeat at home in 2009 effectively brought down the hammer in Carroll’s era.

Lane Kevin went 0-3 against the Cardinal, but was kicked off the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport nearly two months before the Trojans finished their four-game slip to Stanford in 2013 (Ed Orgeron, the $17 million man himself, was a USC coach provisional for that match).

The second and final season of Steve Sarkissian with a Trojan horse? Stanford’s loss emerged. Clay Hilton’s successor fared slightly better, even leading the USC to a Pac-12 title win over the Cardinal in 2017. But there was Stanford last year, with a 42-28 victory at the Los Angeles Coliseum in the second week of the season. Less than 48 hours later, Helton was out of work.

Riley may not worry about the Cardinal for long. The Trojans are heading to the Big Ten in 2024, and no one is guessing when and if the absurdity of reorganizing conventions will lead Stanford elsewhere. But the Cardinal (1-0) is a problem right now, and is the first big hurdle for this version of Southern Cal.

In fairness to Riley and the Trojans, there Much That has changed since this time last year. Riley left Oklahoma and brought in quarterback Caleb Williams. USC started nine transfers in its opener last week (including Williams and former Pitt wideout Jordan Addison), having done everything on the transfer gate to quickly regroup after last season’s 4-8 relegation.

And while Stanford hasn’t been particularly memorable for a few years, it has an older team and is expected to have little trouble dusting off Colgate, 41-10, in its editorial.

Saturday marks the Trojans’ first game as a top-10 team in an Associated Press poll since the Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State after the 2017 regular season. That’s progress. A win at Stanford, which Southern Cal has only done once since 2010, would be another sign that things are really heading in a different direction for one of the sport’s traditional prestige programs.

Articulating moment of the Seminole?

The social media joke going on as Sunday went into Monday was that Florida “returned” as a result of a 24-23 win over LSU by securing a forbidden bonus point in the game’s final game.

Aside from some spirited Seminole players (who had every reason to be excited) about escaping New Orleans with a win, no one has any hint in perspective that Florida State is about to resume its traditional ways of winning ten or more games in a year. Beating an LSU team that went 6-7 last year by 50 he wouldn’t have done it.

However, the Seminoles have already won their first season since 2016 with a Week 0 win over Duquesne. With next week’s win over Louisville, Florida State could be in its first 3-0 start since 2015.

Forget the gossip about college football business and focus on games

Anyone who has watched Florida work its way through everything since — the final days of the Jimbo Fisher era, the entire season and the changing period of Willie Taggart, the first two years of trying to rebuild Mike Norville — can recognize Sunday’s game as one that would have The Seminoles have lost a lot over the past five seasons.

There was real progress at the end of the 5-7 season last year. He had to be there, considering there was a 0-4 start that included a loss to Jacksonville State in the final game of the game. Florida State went 5-3 from there including defeating in-state rival Miami, and Clemson led in the final quarter with a loss.

The next logical step would be to finish the race on the right side of the .500, maybe run with eight wins and preferably pick Miami and/or Florida. The LSU bodice, even if it’s not in the cleanest fashion, makes it likely that the Seminoles will be able to do at least some of those things this fall.

Five most at risk

1. Florida. Team #12 may have found its way onto the spot on the squad this week regardless of the opening week’s result. Had she lost to Utah on Saturday, Florida might have stared at the start 0-2 with a trip to Tennessee looming later in the month.

Instead, the Gators got a superb display from Anthony Richardson and a late interception in the end zone to thwart Utah’s bid to win in the swamp. Florida stayed home this week against Kentucky, which has captured two of its last four seasons against the Gators and has gone on to win seasons 10 times both times (2018 in 2021). The Wildcats finally put Miami (Ohio) 37-13 in their opener last week.

2. Alabama. Not many Texans fans will see it that way, especially those with deep pockets, but here it goes: The Longhorns has little to lose and a lot to gain with Nick Saban and No. 1 Alabama coming into town at 11 a.m. local tee time. Texans may be interesting this year, but they should not be considered a playoff contender at the moment.

That obviously doesn’t apply to Crimson Tide, who debuted with a shell from Utah and is (as usual) in line to chase a place in the semifinals. This may be a defining moment for Alabama, but it also represents an opportunity to falter and give up any room for maneuver in the playoff chase. Better save that, say, for three weeks that include Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee early next month.

Georgia makes a loud statement (College Football Winners and Losers)

3. Baylor. The No. 9 Bears seed is heading to No. 21 in BYU for the back-end of the home and home series against a future Big 12 contender who started with a 38-24 victory over the Cougars in Waco last season. Baylor defeated Albany as it was supposed to be on Saturday, but this is a tough non-conference game. There are enough chances for the Big 12 team to stumble that the Bears probably won’t want to remove the margin of error in this playoff chase so early in the season.

4. Oklahoma. The No. 11 Cowboys were unimpressed on the defensive side by Thursday night’s penalty shootout win over Central Michigan. So will there be a week to week 2 jump in Stillwater? And how good is Visit Arizona (1-0), which has had an entire NCAA investigation looming but still threatens to be a spoiler?

5 a. tn and 5b. Pittsburgh. Pete won a touchdown in Knoxville early last season, a victory that signaled the Panthers and then Kenny Pickett then-Kenny Pickett could do well (even if they fell to Western Michigan next time). Tennessee makes a trip back to the City of Steel to save the split at home and home with Number 17 Pete, and this might be a hint as to whether the Number 24 Volunteers are ready to be a real threat to win nine or 10 games.

A weekly look at the race for the favorite college football figurine.

1. QB Bryce Young, Alabama. The Heisman Prize winning defender will benefit from name recognition. But if he makes games like Saturday — 195 passing yards and five touchdowns against Utah State — his numbers will do all the talking for him.

2. QB CJ Stroud, Ohio. Stroud actually had to deal with a more challenging opener than most top quarterbacks, and was 24 of 34 for 223 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. Sure enough, nothing would hurt Heisman’s stock for the rest of the season.

Ohio is counting on defense, for a change, to fend off Notre Dame

3. QB Caleb Williams, Southern California. Williams exploded onto the scene midway through last season in Oklahoma, and the sophomore had his illustrious debut in Los Angeles, completing 19 of 22 for 249 yards and two touchdowns when he smashed the Trojans Rice.

4. QB Anthony Richardson, Florida. Here’s some good company: Richardson became the third Gator to dash for three touchdowns and throw 150 yards in a game, joining Jesse Palmer and Tim Tebow. Richardson helped Florida beat Utah, 29-26, in one of the week’s most impressive wins.

5. QB Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia. Bennett will catch Heisman’s attention after his quarterback from the Bulldogs to a national title. He’ll continue to receive them with more games like Saturday: 25 of 31 for high-level 368 yards and two touchdowns in 49-3 Oregon nets.

6. Will Anderson, Alabama. The man who was probably the best player in the country last season (regardless of Heisman’s ending) had five tackles (one for a loss) as Crimson Tide had little trouble serving Utah State on Saturday.


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