Week 2 College Football Preview: Is USC Back?

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

The Trojans have been there and done so a lot in the last decade and a half, long before Lincoln Riley showed up in Los Angeles as the program’s fourth full-time head coach since Pete Carroll returned to the NFL.

(USC has actually been there and done so even before Riley emerged as a prodigious offensive coordinator in East Carolina. Yes, it’s been a while.)

While much has changed since the Carroll/Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush heyday of the mid-1980s, the Trojans have always been sidetracked by Stanford, whom Riley will face in his first conference game on Saturday.

The Cardinal has won 10 of 16 against USC since 2007, dealing a disproportionate amount of damage to the Trojans and their various training regimens in that span.

Even with USC and UCLA, Pac-12 football has been pretty bleak.

There was Stanford’s 24-23 win as a 41-point underdog in 2007, which did more than any other result to illustrate that USC had some vulnerability after years when it seemed like there was none. A 55-21 blowout at home in 2009 brought the hammer down on the Carroll era.

Lane Kiffin went 0-3 against the Cardinals, but was fired on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport nearly two months before the Trojans snapped a four-game losing streak against Stanford in 2013 (Ed Orgeron, the man of $17 million, was the holder of the USC). interim coach for that game).

Steve Sarkisian’s second and final season with the Trojans? He submitted a loss to Stanford. Successor Clay Helton fared little better, even leading USC to a Pac-12 title game win over Cardinal in 2017. But Stanford was last year, recording a 42-28 win at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Angels in the second week of the season. . Less than 48 hours later, Helton was unemployed.

Riley might not have to worry about the Cardinal for long. The Trojans are headed to the Big Ten in 2024, and anyone can guess when and if the conference realignment madness will take Stanford elsewhere. But the Cardinal (1-0) is a topic for now, and represents the first big hurdle for this edition of Southern Cal.

To be fair to Riley and the Trojans, there are much That has changed since this time last year. Riley left Oklahoma and brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him. USC initiated nine transfers in its first game last week (including Williams and former Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison), having bet everything on the transfer portal to quickly regroup after the 4-8 tailspin from Last season.

And while Stanford hasn’t been especially memorable for a few years, it has an older team and, unsurprisingly, had little trouble dusting off Colgate, 41-10, in its first game.

Saturday marks the Trojans’ first game as a top-10 team in the Associated Press poll since their Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State after the 2017 regular season. That’s progress. Winning at Stanford, which Southern Cal has done just once since 2010, would be another sign that things are indeed going in a different direction for one of the sport’s traditionally prestigious programs.

Seminal moment for the Seminoles?

The running joke on social media from Sunday through Monday was that Florida State was “back” as a result of a 24-23 victory over LSU clinched by a blocked extra point on the game’s final play.

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Aside from some exuberant Seminole players (who had every reason to be excited) about escaping New Orleans with a win, no one with an ounce of perspective would suggest that Florida State is about to resume its traditional ways of winning 10 or more games. year. year. Beating an LSU team that went 6-7 last year by 50 wouldn’t have done that.

Nonetheless, the Seminoles had already won their first season start since 2016 with a Week 0 loss at Duquesne. With a win next week over Louisville, Florida State could be off to its first 3-0 start since 2015.

Forget the talk about the business of college football and focus on the games.

Anyone who has watched Florida State huff and puff through everything since then: the final days of the Jimbo Fisher era, the entire season and Willie Taggart’s change in tenure, the first two years of Mike’s rebuilding attempt Norvell may recognize Sunday’s game as one. the Seminoles would have lost many times over the last five seasons.

There was real progress at the end of a 5-7 season last year. There had to be, considering there was an 0-4 start with a loss to Jacksonville State on the final play of the game. Florida State went 5-3 from there, including a loss to state rival Miami, and led Clemson in the fourth quarter for one of those losses.

The next logical step is to finish on the right side of .500, maybe post eight wins and preferably eliminate Miami and/or Florida. Fending off LSU, even if it wasn’t in the cleanest way, makes it more likely that the Seminoles can do at least some of those things this fall.

Five with more at stake

1. florid. The No. 12 Gators could have found their way onto an in-place team roster this week, regardless of the outcome of opening week. Had it lost to Utah on Saturday, Florida could be looking at an 0-2 start with a trip to Tennessee looming later in the month.

Instead, the Gators got a breakout performance from Anthony Richardson and a late interception in the end zone to thwart Utah’s attempt to win at the Swamp. Florida remains at home this week against Kentucky, which has won two of its last four against the Gators and gone on to 10-win seasons both times (2018 in 2021). The Wildcats finally defeated Miami (Ohio) 37-13 in their first game last week.

2.Alabama. Many Texas fans won’t see it this way, particularly those with deep pockets, but here it goes: The Longhorns have little to lose and everything to gain with Nick Saban and No. 1 Alabama rolling into town for a local at 11 am time start. Texas could very well be interesting this year, but it shouldn’t be considered a playoff contender right now.

That’s obviously not true for the Crimson Tide, who debuted with a thrashing of Utah State and are (as usual) in line to chase a spot in the semifinals. This could be a statement moment for Alabama, but it also represents an opportunity to stumble and give up any wiggle room in the playoff chase. That’s best saved for, say, the three-week stretch that includes Arkansas, Texas A&M and Tennessee early next month.

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Georgia Makes a Strong Statement (College Football Winners and Losers)

3. Baylor. The No. 9 Bears head to No. 21 BYU for the finale of a home-and-home series against a future Big 12 rival that began with a 38-24 win over the Cougars in Waco last season. Baylor took down Albany like it was supposed to on Saturday, but this is a tough non-conference game. There’s enough chance that a Big 12 team will stumble that the Bears probably don’t want to eliminate their margin of error in the playoff hunt this early in the season.

4. Oklahoma State. The No. 11 Cowboys failed to impress on the defensive end with their Thursday night shootout victory over Central Michigan. So will there be a jump from Week 1 to Week 2 in Stillwater? And how good is visiting Arizona State (1-0), which has had an NCAA investigation all offseason but is still a threat to be a spoiler?

5a. Tennessee and 5b. pittsburgh. Pitt won by touchdown at Knoxville early last season, a win that indicated the Panthers and then-QB Kenny Pickett could be pretty good (even if they lose to West Michigan in their next outing). Tennessee makes the trip back to Steel City to salvage a home-and-home split with No. 17 Pitt, and this could be an indication of whether the No. 24 Volunteers are ready to be a credible threat to win nine or 10 games.

A weekly look at the race for college football’s favorite stiff-armed statue.

1. QB Bryce Young, Alabama. The defending Heisman winner will benefit from his name recognition. But if he produces games like the one on Saturday (195 passing yards and five touchdown throws against Utah State), his numbers will speak for him.

2. QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State. Stroud actually had to deal with a more challenging opener than most top quarterbacks, and he went 24-for-34 for 223 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. It’s certainly nothing to hurt his Heisman stock for the rest of the season.

Ohio State relies on defense, for a change, to fend off Notre Dame

3. QB Caleb Williams, Southern California. Williams burst onto the scene midway through last season in Oklahoma, and the sophomore had a brilliant Los Angeles debut, going 19-of-22 for 249 yards and two touchdowns as the Trojans blew out Rice.

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

5. Field Marshal Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia. Bennett will catch the eye of the Heisman after leading the Bulldogs to a national title. He’ll continue to greet it with more games like Saturday: 25 of 31 for a career-high 368 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-3 blowout of Oregon.

6. OLB Will Anderson, Alabama. The guy who was probably the best player in the nation last season (regardless of the Heisman finish) had five tackles (one for a loss) as the Crimson Tide had little trouble dispatching Utah State on Saturday.

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