Dietlin: 2022 Trojans Greatest Experiment in CFB History


Posted on August 21, 2022

  By Mik Dietlin, SuperWest Sports

Sorry Christmas, but mid-August and the countdown to a new college football season is the most wonderful time of the year.

What could Santa possibly deliver that’s more exciting than Notre Dame vs Ohio State, Utah vs Florida, Oregon vs Georgia, or Cincinnati vs Arkansas?

And just to stuff a last-minute present under the tree, Alabama vs Texas in Week Two?

The answer is nothing. For all the hype Santa got around my house growing up, most years he under-delivered. But that’s a story for my family therapist.

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | USC Athletics

September has long sprinted past April as America’s best sports/change-of-season combination. For about a century, spring and baseball dominated our nation’s imagination.

Winter had passed and grown men went about the business of playing a game on grass with a little ball in strange pajama outfits that sorta looked like suits.

It was every young boy’s fantasy—to remain a kid forever.

I’m tempted to bash baseball here, but I’ll show admirable restraint. Ah, what the hell. . . I’ll be brief.

The sport lost its firm grip on America’s consciousness years ago, around the time Curt Flood came along and changed things for the better… and for the worse.

Since then, the interest in our former pastime has plummeted to such depths that today you need to hire a detective to locate a cable station carrying a game.

If a baseball game were only six innings long, I might watch one every fortnight, which would be one more than I watch now.

As a kid, I often went to the bank with my mom. The boredom of waiting in line to reach the teller was sheer torture for me. I’d slouch, grimace, whine—anything to relieve the wearisome environment surrounding me.

My mom would jerk my arm, almost from its socket, to get me to behave. It worked temporarily, but the ailment always returned.

That’s how I feel watching baseball. Like a hyperactive kid trapped in Dullsville.

Now, America is all about football. It’s been that way for a while. Thank you Joe Namath?

College football has exploded with change beyond our wildest dreams these past few years, and we anxiously wait to discover exactly how it will mirror the pro game in the near future.

If you try encapsulating the essence of America, which I believe is impossible, many political pundits will use a tired phrase like, “America is the greatest experiment in world history.”

That means, in part, as Bill Murray quipped in the movie Stripes, “Our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse… we’re mutts.”

We come from all around the globe adding our diverse social, racial, and religious beliefs with hope for happiness.

Sometimes the melting pot produces a flavor that is out of this world. Other times it tastes like crap, usually because one ingredient overpowers the stew.

USC head coach Lincoln Riley | Associated Press

In much the same way, the 2022 USC Trojans could be viewed as the greatest experiment in college football history.

Players from all over the country, seeking a better football life, have flocked to USC to join head coach Lincoln Riley’s vision for a new America—an America where at least one west coast team establishes itself as a perennial threat to win national championships.

Riley and his staff have thoroughly disassembled and reassembled a 2021 roster that was nothing short of embarrassing.

I would have characterized it as a total embarrassment but the offensive line made great strides in the second half of the season.

And then there was Drake London, who really was a joy to watch. With this overhaul, coupled with the goal of winning championships immediately, they’ve acquired the No. 1 transfer portal class in the nation.

More importantly, the new players had to possess the ability to adapt quickly to his system, and quickly gel with the rest of the team.

Riley has accomplished all this with flying colors. His team appears unselfish. Players hold one another accountable on and off the field.

This constant influx of applied and self-motivated discipline has helped mold them into an entity with a singular goal—to win national championships as fast as humanly possible.

The frequent presence and encouragement from previous Trojan greats have endowed the current players with a first-hand historical perspective of past successes, creating a desire to be part of such a rich lineage.

Players work hard and hit hard and don’t mind putting in overtime. They understand the concept of sweat equity and how it translates to winning.

They hang out together and carry a noticeable affection for each other. If one succeeds, they all do. This team is a well-functioning, enthusiastic unit that can envision the distant light of potential greatness.

The floor in 2022 is 9-3 and a good bowl match-up. But this team could finish 12-0. I don’t have the guts to make that prediction. Reality is always found somewhere between polar opposites.

USC will go 11-2, winning the championship game against Utah after losing to them during the regular season.

I don’t know if that scenario will land them in the playoff, but if it does, they’ll lose their semi-final, making 11-3 a possibility. Every Trojan fan will consider that outcome a highly refreshing change.

Now for the “who cares but we have to talk about it” segment of the column.

The coaches and writers released their meaningless polls several days ago, to little fanfare. Well, I guess we can pretend they have meaning until November when the Selection Committee renders them obsolete.

OU transfer Caleb Williams | Ryan Abraham/, 247Sports

The coaches’ poll ranked the Trojans 15th. Utah was 8th, Oregon 12th. The writers’ poll was a near exact replica of the coaches’ poll. Trojans were 14th, Utah 7th, Oregon 11th.

Las Vegas completely disagrees with the writers and coaches.

Sin City just released their national championship odds, effectively flipping the coaches’ and writers’ polls on their heads, where the Pac-12 is concerned.

USC was +2180, ranking them 5th, just below Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, and Clemson. Utah was +5600 (11th), Oregon +8300 (15th).

Clearly, Vegas believes the only Pac-12 team with a realistic chance of making the playoff is USC.

What might account for this discrepancy? Ten-plus years of bad defensive football for starters. But there are enough reasons to believe “the times, they are a changin’.”

Contrary to all we’ve heard and read over the past several months, I’m a witness for the defense. They will be good in 2022. They will determine whether the Trojans have a very good season or a great season.

The 2021 Trojan defense surrendered a tick under 32 points a game.

Given the solid veteran leadership brought in over the past several months on that side of the ball from blue blood programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, and Oklahoma, it’s impossible to suck that bad again this year.

There’s infinitely more pride and aggression on display in practices, fighting tooth-and-nail against what will probably be a Top 10 offense throughout spring, summer, and fall camps.

Shaving seven points off that number in 2022 would rank them in the 40th to 50th range nationally, way up from 103rd last year.

With a potentially devastating offense wearing down opposing defenses and winning time of possession most games (if the run defense does its job), it’s not difficult to foresee a playoff spot.

USC’s defense is a work in progress | Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

As everyone suggests, including myself, the defense is an unknown commodity. Corey Foreman’s non-activity during fall camp is a concern.

For the Trojans to achieve their goals in 2022, Foreman has to be a consistently disruptive force. The edge rushing position at present is thin.

Shane Lee and Romello Height have missed time lately, among others, so staying relatively healthy throughout the year might be the most important accomplishment the defense can bring to the field.

Personnel is an obvious upgrade from last year. Pursuit will be far better, as will tackling. Those two things alone, if done well, could significantly reduce points allowed.

Riley, known from time to time for being a prickly dude, has been cracking a few smiles of late. He’s very relaxed about the prospects of what this team can accomplish.

We’re told the players are improving every day, not just by the head coach, but by all assistants. We’ve got no reason to doubt them, in spite of the media’s limited access to be able to tell us differently.

This 2022 team won’t go down as one of the greatest Trojan teams ever.

But they do have an opportunity to become one of the most beloved SC teams of all time; the mutts that turned away a tsunami headed for a coastal metropolis and established the emergence of sustained national power.

Or the injury bug could infect the defense to such a degree every game becomes a battle to outscore their opponent. Whatever fate has in store, it certainly will be more exciting than standing in line at a bank.

—More from Mik Dietlin—

Latest posts by Mik Dietlin (see all)


Source link

Comments are closed.