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IMHO Sunday: Don’t bet against these 2023 Trojans

12 min read
IMHO Sunday: Don’t bet against these 2023 Trojans

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles:

The odds: First, a Happy Mother’s Day to all in real time or in spirit. Moving forward, as you probably know, we’re at the point of the “off-season” where the early betting odds are being released in anticipation of the upcoming 2023 college football season. Depending on the betting entity, the conjecture is for Lincoln Riley’s Trojans to have a 9.5-win total in 2023. One betting service, Bet On-line, lists the Trojans as slight underdogs at Notre Dame and Oregon, respectively. Winning in South Bend and Eugene is always a challenging proposition.

The odds – Part 2: If you go by conventional wisdom that the Trojans are indeed underdogs against the Irish and the Ducks, where does the “.5” come into total win  play? Are the Trojans going to be upset by a Washington Huskies team that is ranked in the Top five by CBS sports? Is the downfall going to come against nemesis Utah in the Coliseum? Through good fortune, both the Utes and the Huskies play the Trojans in Los Angeles, which would seem to favor the Trojans. In a game-by-game account as it pertains to the odds, the Trojans are in the positive.

It should be quite a battle when the Trojans host defending two-time Pac-12 champion Utah Utes in the Coli on Oct. 21.
(Photo above by Jason Allen/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The odds – Part 3: As we all know and have been told over and over, games are not played on paper or in video game competition. There’s the human element, venue, fans intimidation or support, and the variables go on and on and on. As many of you have also gone over time and time again and looking at the 2023 schedule, unless the Trojans pull an El Foldo in their first six games, they should be 6-0 and undefeated when they arrive in South Bend, Indiana for the collision with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. It figures that the Irish welcome wagon will be waiting for the Trojans outside Notre Dame Stadium, and it will be a reception like few others. ND loves undefeated USC teams visiting the Golden Dome.  

The odds – Part 4: The question, of course, is the state of the USC program when it begins it most challenging phase of the 2023 season, which translates into the final six regular season games that are as difficult and challenging as they come. I mean, you play in succession at Notre Dame, Utah, at Cal, Washington, at Oregon, and UCLA and your plate is more than full.  Okay, you consider Cal a bye week, but the Bears won’t see it that way. In fact, with this being the last time the Trojans visit Memorial Stadium as part of the Pac-12, it should be feisty, and the Bears think this is going to be one of their better teams in a while.

In a challenging second half of the 2023 schedule, the Trojans will clash with the Cal Bears up in Berkeley on Oct. 28.
(Photo above by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

The odds – Part 5: IF the Trojans defense has improved to at least an average defense (fingers crossed), it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. I don’t have to convince you about the offense, so let’s not waste time at this point. As for the defense, there has been an influx of talent, some of it big names from their prep days when their star rankings were the brightest on the recruiting charts. We’ll see if the positives on the transfer evaluations translate to the field. Nobody will be happier to see positive outcomes with the “talent rebuild” than defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and head coach Lincoln Riley.  

The odds – Part 6: For the sake of being positive, if the defense is improved like many hope, the Trojans will be hard to beat. The offense will score and if the defense is improved, the cardinal and gold have a chance – despite a difficult back end of the schedule to win every game. I am not prepared to say they’ll win every game, but they will be fully capable.

The odds – Part 7: The 2023 season will definitely have to be taken one game at a time or as dad used to say, “One step at a time.” There is certainly impatience to get to the second half of the season and find out what this team is all about, but if the Trojans don’t take it one step at a time, that’s when upsets can happen. I know what you’re saying, “Upsets by whom?” San Jose State, Nevada, ASU, Stanford, Colorado, Arizona? ASU and Colorado have new head coaches, and both games are on the road and figure to be well attended by the locals. Road games do tend to make games interesting if the Trojans let teams like the Sun Devils and the Buffaloes hang around too long.

The Trojans will see for themselves the complete makeover of the Colorado roster when they invade Folsom Field on Sept. 30.
(Photo above by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Summation: It really isn’t a reach to say that USC can win every game. It also isn’t a reach that there are some mighty big potential potholes along the way. When you’re goal is to win the Pac-12 and advance to the CFP post-season, they isn’t much room for error. However, for right now, I wouldn’t bet against these Trojans until proven wrong.


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The Jon Wilner quotebook…

Columnist Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury

Jon Wilner, columnist and Pac-12 conference expert of the San Jose Mercury, wrote his post-spring practice evaluation of the conference pecking order for 2023. In his popular Hotline column, Wilner believes the Trojans are the third best team in the Pac-12 behind Washington and Utah. The respected scribe wrote the following:

“The Trojans ran slightly ahead of schedule in Lincoln Riley’s first season, thanks in part to an otherworldly turnover margin that cannot be repeated. Another recruiting cycle provides the opportunity to patch remaining holes and quarterback Caleb Williams proper support. Naturally, the off-season focus was on strengthening the defensive line with Bear Alexander (from Georgia), Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M), and Kyon Barrs (Arizona). For now, the Hotline has a believe-it-when-we-see-it approach. We won’t pick the Trojans to finish ahead of Utah after the ’22 results, and Washington has better balance.” 

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From the press box…

(Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Nobody asked me…but: I thought you’d like to know that the official store of USC Trojans Athletics, A Fanatics Experience, is selling men’s ProSphere Caleb Williams cardinal USC Trojans Heisman Memorial Trophy jerseys with No. 13 and Williams on the back for a cool $114.99. 

Have you purchased your official Caleb Williams jersey yet?

Nobody asked me…but: After a slow start to get their NIL division in order, the Trojans new venture into the NIL, the House of Victory, is picking up stream and a number of athletes have signed to gain fame and fortune. Among the latest Trojan football players to come aboard are highly publicized offensive linemen Jonah Monheim, who could very well be a very high pick in the 2024 NFL draft should he decide to go to the “The League.” Monheim is the second known USC offensive line to ink with House of Victory. It was announced on social media recently that O-lineman Jarrett Kingston is also represented by House of Victory. Just the beginning.

USC offensive tackle Jonah Monheim (#79) has signed with House of Victory.
(Photo above by Erik McKinney/WeAreSC)

Nobody asked me…but: The Trojans are recruiting defensive back Dakoda Fields from Gardena (Calif.) Serra for the class of 2024. Fields is reportedly down to USC and Oregon. In a recent interview with WeAreSC, Fields said, “I really like the entire (USC) coaching staff and the lifestyle at USC. I wish I could be in a better dorm my freshman year, but I love SC.” Could Fields decision between the Trojans and the Ducks come down to a dorm room? FYI, Fields wants to major in real estate. 

Nobody asked me…but: The one thing to take into account regarding the transfer of former Alabama defensive back Tre’Quon Fegans to SC is that defensive backs are Nick Saban’s specialty. If Saban recruits you as one of his defensive backs, that brings a lot of credibility.

Sophomore safety Anquon Fegans, class of 2025, has committed to follow his older brother Tre’Quan Fegans to USC.
(Photo above by Billy Embody – On3)

Nobody asked me…but: Looking ahead, class of 2025 safety Anquon Fegans (Thompson HS in Alabama) who has committed to the Trojans and is the brother of recent Trojans transfer commit Tre’Quan Fegans, has also already committed to play in the 2025 Under Armour All-American Game.    

Nobody asked me…but: Don’t tell me that the SEC isn’t concerned about the Trojans beginning to make inroads into recruiting the South. None other than Nick Saban said recently the one school he is concerned about now in recruiting is USC. Saban remembers the damage that Pete Carroll did to the South during Coach Charisma’s tenure as the Trojans’ head coach.

The SEC was afraid of Pete Carroll recruiting in person down in the South during high school spring practices.
(Photo above by Kirby Lee/WireImage)

Nobody asked me…but: If as reported that quarterback Dylan Raiola (Phoenix Pinnacle) is leaning now towards Georgia. It will be interesting to see who Lincoln Riley may turn his attention to for the class of 2024 if Raiola commits to the Bulldogs. Could it be Mater Dei QB Elijah Brown?  

Nobody asked me…but: There will be a lot of intriguing matchups of position groups featuring USC and their opponents, but none will be more intriguing than the USC secondary dueling the tremendous onslaught of opposition quarterback talent, or have you forgotten the likes of Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman, Utah’s Cam Rising, Oregon’s Bo Nix, and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.

Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. battling Caleb Williams in the Coliseum on Nov. 4 should be quite a competition.
(Photo above by Alika Jenner / Getty Images)

Nobody asked me…but: I sure would like to hear how many new season ticket holders have signed up for both the Trojans 2023 football and basketball seasons.

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The post-game show…

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

Ranking the QBs: In a recent 2023 Top 10 quarterback rankings list by On3, it was no surprise that Caleb Williams was No.1. With Caleb numero uno, there were nine quarterbacks remaining and the Trojans face three of them this season.

To no surprise, USC quarterback Caleb Williams is considered the top signal caller in the Pac-12 for 2023.
(Photo above by Acscottphotography/WeAreSC)

Ranking the QBs – Part 2: FYI, ranked behind Caleb Williams in the On3 evaluation was Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. (No. 3), Oregon’s Bo Nix (No. 5), and Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman (No. 10).

In appreciation: Last week, the Spirit of Troy completed a successful inaugural Stream-Athon event. USC’s “Day of SCupport” was able to raise over $50,000 to help in transportation to away games like Notre Dame and for funding to help aid in the transition into the Big Ten in 2024.

The Spirit of Troy held a recent streamed fundraiser and raised $50,000 dollars for financial assistance.
(Photo above by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The Graduate: Congrats to former Trojans wide receiver John Jackson lll who spoke at USC’s graduation ceremony for athletes. John lll, whose grandfather, John Jackson, was a former USC offensive coordinator and running back coach while John lll’s father is former standout USC wide receiver John Jackson Jr., spoke of dealing with and overcoming adversity in his personal life. John lll received both his BA and Master’s from USC and will continue to pursue his college football career at the University of Nevada in 2023.

Former Trojans wide receiver John Jackson lll spoke at USC’s graduation ceremony for Trojans athletes.
(Photo above by Greg Katz/WeAreSC)

Celebration for Bish: Late former WeAreSC historian and Hall of Fame columnist Steve Bisheff was given a rousing Celebration of Life ceremony last Sunday at the Tustin Ranch Golf Course. A number of high profile sports types were in attendance along with personal friends of Steve and his family. A sit-down lunch consisting of a Mexican food buffet was a nice touch. Following the meal, a number of folks spoke about their life and relationship with Steve including yours truly.

Celebration for Bish – Part 2: Among those in attendance were former Angels manager Mike Scioscia, former USC and UCLA sports information directors Tim Tessalone and Mark Dellins, respectively, and such illustrious writers as Associated Press sports editor John Nadel and AP national radio reporter Steve Federman, Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan, former Los Angeles Times USC beat writer and current Rams beat writer Gary Klein, former Angels publicist and former director of the Baseball Hall of Fame Tim Mead, former L.A. Times writer Steve Springer, former Long Beach Press-Telegram and former L.A. Herald-Express columnist Doug Krikorian, and among representatives from the Orange County Register were editor Todd Harmonson and columnist Steve Fryer.

Last Sunday,was a Celebration of Life in honor of the late Steve Bisheff.
(Photo above by Marsha Bisheff)

In memory: Although WeAreSC.com is obviously devoted to USC athletics, I’d like to take moment of reflection on the passing of former longtime UCLA broadcast voice Chris Roberts, who passed at the age of 74 due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease. I’ve known Chris for many decades and remember our days together at Long Beach State and the Big West Conference. He was a great guy, a true professional, and was a credit to the schools who employed him as their broadcast radio voice. He will be truly missed.

Chris Roberts, a great guy who was the likeable broadcast voice of UCLA for 23 years, passed away this weekend at 74.

Here comes the future bride: Congrats to former Trojans’ defensive line coach and interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who announced on Twitter his engagement to his fiance Brandy Nicole. Orgeron has been married twice previously.  

Coach O and Brandy, his new bride-to-be

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The Call-in Show…

Caller No. 1: Mr. Katz, if you had your choice to add one transfer on offense or one on defense, what would be your choice?

Caller No. 1, if I had a choice, I would add another defensive lineman.

Caller No. 2, Greg, are you concerned with the way Deion Sanders is reinventing his Colorado roster with so many players being shown the door?

Caller No. 2, I am concerned that Sanders is being allowed to turn a college football program into an NFL meat market and the whole idea of college and athletics has taken one giant step backwards, IMHO. Watching the Colorado is like watching an episode of cutdown day on NFL Hard Knocks. That being said, it seems like this is the new direction in college football, and it likely will spread to other sports, as well.  

Colorado head coach Deion Sanders
(Photo above by © Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Caller No. 3: GK, is there really anything you miss from the past in college sports that you think could be returned to today’s athletes.  

Caller No. 3, just from a visual point of view, I remember the days when players would arrive for a game in coats and ties. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like wearing a coat and tie, but I thought it looked kind of cool and businesslike. I thought, like a uniform, it symbolized team unit. Some schools have kept that tradition. Of course, most team have replaced that businesslike look with athletic company sponsored sweats like Nike.  

Caller No. 4: Grego, has the transfer portal surpassed traditional high school recruiting when it comes to stocking a roster?

Caller No. 4, at the moment, I don’t think so, but the transfer portal has changed or should I say revolutionized how a college roster is put together. The amount of player transfers is only going to increase, and the big question is when you spend years recruiting a high school player, what are the chances of that player leaving after his first season or even earlier like spring ball after having arrived early from high school to participate in spring practice?

Bear Alexander (#90)
(Photo above by On3.com)

Caller No. 5: Greger, with Covid supposedly ending in terms of a major epidemic, are you going to increase your personal activities?

Caller No. 5, sure, but I will error on the side of caution. Although most have elected to forego wearing a mask, I still more comfortable making decisions on that based on the location of where I am going and the facility that event is being held. I will say I am going to a lot more places and events than before, but I am still cautious and age has something to do with it.  

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The last word

For those that missed last Tuesday’s “Inside the Trojans’ Huddle”, panelists Marc Kulkin, Erik McKinney, and Greg Katz discussed the portal addition of safety Tre’Quon Fegans from Alabama and the commitment of his younger brother Anquon Fegans to the Trojans, early opening betting odds for five of USC’s most critical 2023 games, Bronny James, Deion Sanders, updated preseason rankings, viewers’ questions and panel answers, and more. 

The post IMHO Sunday: Don’t bet against these 2023 Trojans appeared first on On3.

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