Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Empire has moved to Wordpress

The Trojan Empire has moved from blogspot to Wordpress. All blogspot content has been exported to the new location, and all future posts will be exclusive to the new home. Though the new spot is still under construction, you can still visit and subscribe to the new feed.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Mark Sanchez Creating Puffs of Smoke

As the NFL draft moves closer, we squint in smoke filled skies to get a glimpse of team intentions. February brings a list of franchise needs, and free agency will scratch items from the notepad. And by April, the shopping list should be condensed. But the pattern fails to materialize, as big boards display prospect growth, and the annual game of cat and mouse remains intact. We are guided by puffs of smoke, and left on a personal quest for fire.

It’s easy to say Mark Sanchez will be the second quarterback to leave the board, but it’s harder to find a destination. With a release of smoke, more teams have appeared as possible takers. Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and the New York Jets were some of the popular mock locations, with Sanchez also poised for the upset of Matthew Stafford to become Detroit’s No. 1 choice.

He was first projected to free fall, with expectations of the second choice quarterback descending to the middle or lower portions of the first round. And with no dramatic change in skill, and without a shake up of signal callers at the top of the order, two additional franchises have joined San Francisco and Detroit as possible quarterback landing spots…supposedly.

In the dark clouds of draft deception, Seattle and Jacksonville are showing interest in the junior hurler. Burning eyes may receive a slight vision of the Seahawks drafting and grooming the successor to Matt Hasselbeck. But if you reach into Seattle’s roster and needs, can you feel the heat of fire?

In Florida, the smoke thickens. You have a hot seat coach and a newly extended quarterback, which makes Sanchez the imperfect fit. If Jack Del Rio, a former USC Trojan, chose to select a fellow alum, it gives him 8 months to start clearing out his desk and packing his bags. What can a first round quarterback do for coaches lacking job security? The question is answered with Dennis Green, Marty Schottenheimer, and Mike Shanahan.

If the interest in Sanchez comes from managing powers, and the selection is made, they are packing Del Rio’s bags for him. Last April, David Garrard received a 7-year $60 million contract extension, the richest in Jacksonville franchise history. 12 months later, would they bank the 8th selection of the first round on a raw junior quarterback? Egotistical managers aren’t quick to admit mistakes, so don’t bet on it. The Browns made Brady Quinn a first round choice, extended Derek Anderson, and then removed Romeo Crennel, marking the coach as the mistake. Vince Young was not the choice of Tennessee’s coaching staff, but the ownership made the selection, then targeted Norm Chow as their mistake. Drafting Sanchez, after extending Garrard, would act as management’s admission of their own error, and it takes more than 12 months for white collars to complete their fall from the high horse.

With puffs of smoke, you can spark a trade, leaving those with true interests to contemplate moving up in the draft order. That dark cloud also acts as a disguise, hiding the true intention, and leading others to believe a targeteted player will descend , deterring any active effort and negotiations to claim him first. Mark Sanchez to Seattle or Jacksonville? This is smoke, without evidence of fire.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cincinnati petitions for Hazelton's eligibility

The Cincinnati Bearcats have petitioned the NCAA for 2009 eligibility of wide receiver Vidal Hazelton. Under the current NCAA rules, the Southern California transfer must sit out a season before becoming part of the active roster in 2010. The basis for the petition is Hazelton's need to move closer to his grandfather, who resides in Georgia and is diagnosed with cancer.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Practice Schedule

If anyone is interested in attending any of the spring practice sessions, here are the dates and times:

March 28, Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
March 31, Tuesday, 4 p.m.
April 2, Thursday, 4 p.m.
April 3, Friday, 4 p.m.
April 5, Sunday, TBA
April 7, Tuesday, 4 p.m.
April 9, Thursday, 4 p.m.
April 11, Saturday, Coliseum (CLOSED to the public)
April 14, Tuesday, 4 p.m.
April 16, Thursday, 4 p.m.
April 17, Friday, 4 p.m.
April 18, Saturday, TBA
April 21, Tuesday, 4 p.m.
April 23, Thursday, 4 p.m.
April 25, Saturday, Trojan Huddle at the Coliseum (Time TBA)

*courtesy of Scott Wolf, Inside USC

Monday, March 16, 2009

NFL Draft: Measure the burst with the 40-yard finish

The 40-yard dash has become the highlight of every pre-draft workout. From the NFL scout combine to individual pro-days, Americans have developed a fascination for watching prospects stripped of pads, and often lighter than their playing weight, run full speed in a straight line. And regardless of what some critics may believe, this measurement of speed, depending on position, does have an impact on draft status.

Too often, there’s the argument that 40-times don’t factor in the equation for draft positioning, and they’ll support their stance with names of speedy draft busts and slower prospects that rose to stardom. But honestly, for ever story of failure, you’ll find several others of success. They argue that recorded times in a straight line don’t matter in accordance to where a player is selected, but they do. You can fill out your personal mock and choose not to give a certain player a first round projection, by ignoring recorded speeds, but it will stray from the league’s current selection pattern. 40-times may or may not be the proper method for evaluating future talent, but in terms of draft positioning, history proves there is a significant impact.

Today’s NFL rebuilds with speed, so I tire of references to old school slugs and stardom. Those stories hold as much weight as the passing games of those periods. In today’s game, the fastest guy on the track isn’t necessarily the first off the board, but it’s foolish to believe speed can’t catapult a player to a more prosperous draft position. Do 4.3 players go in the 4th and 5th rounds? Of course they do. But let that same player run a 4.5 or higher, depending on his position, and watch him fall to the seventh or become an undrafted free agent.

The difference between Chris Johnson being selected in the first and second rounds of last year’s draft was his 4.24 at the scout combine. Also, with the more popular receivers from the more popular schools projected as first round prospects, none left the board in the opening round, and Houston’s Donnie Avery, and his 4.2 speed, became the first off the board in the second. Before Avery and Johnson ran that straight line, they were projected lower than several others at their position. And likewise, Oklahoma’s Malcolm Kelly was a top receiving prospect, until he appeared sluggish on the track.

For some positions, it’s ridiculous to even time the the 40-yard dash. Recording the speed of a kicking prospect is irrelevant, unless you’re purposely drafting with the expectations of a poor kicking game, which leaves him running down returners on a path to the end zone or defenders that block and scoop kicks. And what about 300 pound linemen or the speed of linebackers, does it matter? Not so much, as far as the end result, but there is more than one measurement on that 40-yard track.

The NFL Network brings the combine into our living rooms, and we watch athletes run a track to a succession of beeps. The final beep is the number announced, giving us the official 40-time. But for some positions, it’s the first beep that is most important, as it measures the explosion. For Example, at the combine, USC’s Clay Matthews made a push for first round selection. Along with his great performance in drills, he also ran well on the track. Though his official time was 4.62, it’s less significant than his time in the first 10 yards.

Matthews clocked 1.49 at the first beep. In comparison, Percy Harvin recorded 1.47, and Darius Heyward-Bey, who dazzled the combine with a 4.3 finish, clocked 1.44 for the first 10 yards. For teams looking for an outside pass rusher, position drills display the footwork and strength, but it’s the first 10 yards of the 40-yard dash that gives them a sense of the explosion. It’s that measure of burst that added to Matthews’ physical dimensions to make him a legitimate first round prospect.

Are 40-times overrated? Possibly. But they are without a doubt a proven element in prospect alignment, and enough of a factor to push players to shed weight and hire trainers for the single event.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The 2009 USC Rose Bowl ring

The USC football program continues to challenge Balfour to brainstorm new creations for the Rose Bowl Ring. I recently got a look at the latest edition for the 7-time defending Pac 10 champions (from USCripsit), and I must say it’s pretty sweet. This is version No. 4 for the Men of Troy, in the past 6 seasons, with each having a slight change in design. One obvious alteration is the single digit increase in the number of consecutive conference championships. The other change, Penn State now marks the most recent Rose Bowl victim.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another spring without Joe Mcknight

Still recovering from the dislocation of 4 toes, Joe McKnight will not be available for spring practice. He suffered the injury during the January 1st Rose Bowl. McKnight missed the 2008 spring practices with academic issues, before rejoining the team in the Summer. Considered to be one of the most dynamic running backs in college football, injuries have often played their part in keeping him off the field.

Monday, March 2, 2009

It’s now or never for Mitch Mustain

Watching Matt Cassel’s rise from the depths of obscurity is an amazing story in itself. But for one particular observer, there’s a personal connection and offering of hope. That person is USC quarterback Mitch Mustain, who oddly enough finds himself walking a similar path, though the upcoming spring and summer months may offer a shortcut.

Cassel never started a game as a Trojan, and neither has Mustain. Cassel sat behind two Heisman Trophy winners and future NFL first round draft picks. Mustain spent his first eligible year at USC sitting behind Mark Sanchez, a one year starter with first round aspirations. As a junior, Cassel approached a window of opportunity and failed to crawl through. Now in his junior campaign, Mitch Mustain walks towards that same window, hoping to not meet the same fate.

Carson Palmer’s 2003 departure left an open competition for quarterbacks remaining. The early favorite was clearly Matt Cassel, having secured the No. 2 role a year prior. He competed and eventually lost the spring battle to the younger Matt Leinart, which resulted in his spending the final two years of eligibility as a substitute.

Mitch Mustain enters spring practice of 2009, and it’s now or never for one of the most decorated high school quarterbacks of the 2006 recruiting class. Like Cassel in 2003, losing this year’s battle is to lose all hope of ever starting as a Trojan. Only twice since 1998 has USC made a quarterback switch to remove a starter, and never under Pete Carroll’s watch. The holder of the reins has guided the chariot until his collegiate work was done. Carson Palmer replaced Mike Van Raaphorst in the 9th game of the ’98 season, to become only the second true freshman quarterback ever to start a game for USC. A broken collar bone benched Palmer in ’99. Outside of the switch in his freshman year, and the injury as a sophomore, the quarterback to win the initial competition has always maintained the starting role.

Mustain flip-flopped as the No. 2 and 3 through the course of last season, never threatening Mark Sanchez for the first team spot. With Sanchez gone, he now battles the more versatile sophomore Aaron Corp and the highly touted true freshman Matt Barkley. It may be one last gasp, a final shot to prove his worth. Failure places him on the alternate route, which is shadowed, much longer, and contains the footprints of Matt Cassel.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

TTE's 2009 NFL Mock Draft | Version 2.0 | Updated 3/12


1.Detroit Lions- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Previous: Matthew Stafford

By all indications, Daunte Culpepper is scheduled to be the starting quarterback for the Lions in 2009. Looking into the future, Detroit will select Stafford with the first overall pick and prepare him to lead the franchise by 2010. The Motor City is also in need of help on the offensive line, but equally important, they are in need of a face, which Stafford can provide. Even in the miserable years of Joey Harrington, Detroit was identified by a person. The 2008 Lions had no victories and no identity, and will look to establish both with the first pick. But keep in mind, when it comes to the overall pick in the NFL draft, it’s not always who you want or need, as much as it’s who you can sign. Tom Condon is the agent for Matthew Stafford, and his clients have often been troublesome and known for extended contract negotiations and player hold-outs.

2. St. Louis Rams- Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Previous: Jason Smith

The obvious priority in St. Louis is at offensive tackle. For months, mock gurus had the name “Smith” penciled into the second position, and that name didn’t change, but the player did. Alabama’s Andre Smith was an early favorite to go second, but his downward spiral, combined with the postseason ascent of Baylor’s Jason Smith fills the same position with a different name. The recent release of Orlando Pace increases the priority to fill this position.

3. Kansas City Chiefs- Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Previous: Aaron Curry

The recent acquisition of Matt Cassel from New England likely sent mock erasers quickly in motion. Many had Mark Sanchez set to lead the Chiefs, and that’s no longer the probability. It’s not a surprise move, knowing Scott Pioli’s track record with the Patriots. Also not surprising would be the selection of Aaron Curry to bolster the linebacking corps. If The Patriots under Pioli’s guidance were known for anything, it’s the passing of early round quarterbacks, and his focus on linebackers. Both are already evident, with the recent signings of both Mike Vrabel and Matt Cassel.

4. Seattle Seahawks- B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Previous: B.J Raji

The acquisition of T.J Houshmandzadeh rapidly reduced the probability of the Seahawks drafting a first round receiver, which I could never see them doing to begin with, especially this high. Sitting in the 4th position, it would be difficult to pass on defensive tackle B.J. Raji, one of 2009’s draft jewels. Some were surprised with Seattle’s drafting of defensive end Lawrence Jackson in the first-round last year. It would hardly be surprising if they chose to go with a defensive tackle in this one.

5. Cleveland Browns- Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Previous: Malcolm Jenkins

Cleveland recently unloaded Kellen Winslow to the Bucs, and No. 5 is too high to select any tight end in this year’s group. The Browns will address a need, while also going with the popular pick, by choosing Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins ran a poor 40-time at the NFL combine, but many had already speculated that he would play safety rather than corner in the NFL, anyway.

6. Cincinnati Bengals- Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Previous: Andre Smith

Andre Smith was originally slotted here, but with each poor pre-draft performance, he appears more likely to play guard in the NFL than tackle. The Bengals will still draft their protection for Carson Palmer, but that person is now Eugene Monroe. As Smith is penalized for a poor work ethic, Monroe reaps the reward, with the increase in stock.

7. Oakland Raiders- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Previous: Michael Crabtree

Assuming the Raiders don’t trade out of the position, Al Davis’ draft trend will stay the course. In 2007, he drafted the biggest quarterback name of the class, Jamarcus Russell. In 2008, he selected the biggest running back name in the group, Darren McFadden. In 2009, he’ll complete the trifecta by adding the most publicized wide receiver to the Roster, Michael Crabtree. Injury concerns? Come on, we’re talking about Al Davis.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars- Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
Previous: Eugene Monroe

Jack Del Rio is at the end of his coaching rope in Jacksonville. He won’t be granted the time to allow a player to progress and become a force in three years. He needs a safe pick that can be an immediate impact player. By the draft odds, that pick is an offensive lineman, and the player is Michael Oher.

9. Green Bay Packers- Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Previous: Brian Orakpo

The Packers are switching to a 3-4 scheme, under new coordinator Dom Capers. They will select Brian Orakpo, a defensive end from Texas, and utilize his talent and athleticism as a stand up pass rusher.

10. San Francisco 49ers- Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Previous: Mark Sanchez

The City by the bay has gone too long without a respectable quarterback. Since Jeff Garcia exited the franchise in 2003, there’s been little offensive punch. They made a mistake drafting Alex Smith in 2004, and it has yet to be corrected. Smith was actually their second option for the ’04 draft, going with plan "B", after Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart, opted to return to USC for his senior year. This time a Trojan hurler will be available with the 10th selection, and the Niners will sweep him from the board. In doing so, San Francisco, the 6th largest Hispanic community in America, will welcome their new quarterback with open arms.

11. Buffalo Bills- Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
Previous: Brandon Pettigrew

12. Denver Broncos- Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
Previous: Rey Maualuga

13. Washington Redskins- Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
Previous: Everette Brown

14. New Orleans Saints- Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Previous: Vontae Davis

15. Houston Texans- Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Previous: Brian Cushing

16. San Diego Chargers- Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Previous: Chris "Beanie" Wells

17. New York Jets- Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Previous: Darius Heyward-Bey

18. Chicago Bears- William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
Previous: Michael Oher

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Previous: Tyson Jackson

20. Detroit Lions- Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
Previous: Peria Jerry

21. Philadelphia Eagles- Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
Previous: William Moore

22. Minnesota Vikings- Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Previous: Jeremy Maclin

23. New England Patriots- Clay Matthews, LB, USC
Previous: Aaron Maybin

24. Atlanta Falcons- Jared Cook, TE, South Carolina
Previous: Jared Cook

25. Miami Dolphins- Sean Smith, CB, Utah
Previous: Sean Smith

26. Baltimore Ravens- James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Previous: James Laurinaitis

27. Indianapolis Colts- Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Previous: Percy Harvin

28. Philadelphia Eagles- Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan
Previous: Knowshon Moreno

29. New York Giants- Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia
Previous: Clay Matthews

30. Tennessee Titans- Evander Hood, DT, Missouri
Previous: Evander Hood

31. Arizona Cardinals-Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Previous: LeSean McCoy

32. Pittsburgh Steelers- Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Previous: William Beatty

Patriots deal Matt Cassel to the Kansas City Chiefs

The New England Patriots dealt quarterback Matt Cassel to the Chiefs on Saturday. Though many mock drafts had Mark Sanchez penciled to land in Kansas City with the third overall pick, I never saw the possibility or sense in it. Matt Cassel increased his value last season, guiding the Patriots to 11 wins as a replacement for the injured Tom Brady. He was franchise tagged by New England, guaranteeing a litte more than $14 million to play in 2009.

When Scott Pioli took over the decision making in Kansas City, it became more apparent that the Chiefs would not draft a first round quarterback. In all his years in New England's front office, the Patriots quarterbacks were selected in later rounds, including Brady in the 6th and Cassel in the 7th. Last year, Matt Ryan was selected third overall by the Atlanta Falcons, and the quarterback banked more than $35 million in guarantees. Acquiring Cassel appears as a discount, while also gaining a proven quarterback, instead of paying more for an unproven prospect.

There are no current details of the deal, but the franchise tag demands that teams acquiring Matt Cassel give the Patriots 2 first-round picks in return.

Update: The Chiefs received New England's second-round pick in the upcoming draft

Friday, February 27, 2009

Brian Cushing still battling steroid speculation

Depending on whom you ask, Brian Cushing can be described in many ways. I find him easiest to define as a tree trunk with vision and speed. He has the look of physical perfection, a product of many hours and years in the gym. But with every muscle defined, and his prowess on the football field, there has also been rumors and speculation that he was assisted in reaching his physical goals.

I first heard the rumor during Cushing’s freshman year at USC. It wasn’t much, and most took it as outsiders trying to damage the kid from New Jersey by linking him to steroid use. It surfaced and created a slight buzz, but without factual support, it failed to grow legs and travel.

In 2006, it was revealed that USC safety Brandon Ting tested positive for steroid use the prior winter. Brandon and his twin brother had already removed themselves from the team, before the announcement came. But fingers pointed again towards a player on the active roster, and again it was Brian Cushing.

Cushing became the topic of steroid conversations, even while testing clean, with other names testing dirty. He was the big fish with the big body, and some weren’t satisfied with the notion that he was a product of hard work alone. And now with his college career behind him, he finds the speculations and rumors are not. Stepping away from the amateur level, he’s greeted by the same questions on the road to the NFL.

At the recent Scout Combine, an NFL GM that refused to be name, spoke of the possible linkage between Cushing and steroid use. "We’ve been warned it is an issue and might have been one since high school”, he said. “We are considering that. As unpleasant as it is, this is an issue with this player that only a negative test here is going to clear up right now. It’s unfortunate, because no one wants to kill the kid, but the issue is a reality."

Cushing continues to insist he has nothing to hide, pointing out that he has tested clean with every test, yet the rumors continue to fly. All players attending the NFL combine are tested for steroid use. It takes at least two weeks for the final results. Cushing remains very confident that he will test negative, finally putting all rumors to rest. But for the next two weeks, his draft stock remains frozen without movement, as potential employers await the result.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Clay Matthews becomes a first-round name

It’s been quite a journey for Clay Matthews III. Despite his famous bloodline, he’s never been given a free football pass. His father and uncle are captured forever in the history of the school he attends, as both men are members of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame. His uncle, Bruce, also appears in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as a 14-time Pro Bowl selection in a spectacular 19 year career. And after his father, Clay II, completed his time at Southern California, he also went on to appear in 4 Pro Bowls of his own. It’s a lineage of Trojans and success, as the elders paved a trail for the family’s youth to follow.

In 2004, trotting into the same stadium where his family first became household names, the newest Matthews did so without a scholarship, appearing as a walk-on. At this storied NFL football factory, a name has never made a player, but plenty of players were granted the opportunity to make a name. He selected a big school, with an even bigger program, and entered with enormous shoes to fill.

4 years later, he has established that name. Through hard work and dedication, “Matthews” is no longer a name solely reflective of football’s past, quickly becoming a popular name for football’s future. No Trojan has benefited more from the 2008 season than this “elephant” on the outside, and that includes Mark Sanchez.

So much is made of the line formed for quarterbacks and running backs at USC, but often overlooked is the number of linebackers and the shortage of opportunities to get on the field. In Matthews’ first year, the Trojans won a national championship, and among their linebackers were Lofa Tatupu, Matt Grootegoed, and Dallas Sartz. The group was replaced through the years with Keith Rivers, Thomas Williams, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiva, and Rey Maualuga. 5 of the 8 were drafted by the NFL, with the remainder appearing as prospects in this year’s class, and two projected in the first round. And thanks to an impressive senior season, Matthews can make it 3.

With the linebacking corps in tact for 2008, Pete Carroll’s staff worked Matthews onto the field, using him as a hybrid. He benefited greatly from his production in two highly publicized early season games, first at Virginia, and then Ohio State. And with the motor still running, he was a constant disruption in opposing backfields, finishing the season with 4.5 sacks and 9 tackles for losses. His name was finally out there, but it’s the occurrences after the scheduled games were complete that allowed that final push.

Matthews made his first impression with NFL scouts at the Senior Bowl. Originally walking in the shadow of Maualuga and Cushing, he left Mobile Alabama sharing the same light. The spotlight intensified at the NFL Scout combine in Indianapolis, where he finished among the top performers at his position.

His name is now being tossed around in discussions involving potential first round picks. Not bad for a former walk-on, huh? His story isn’t much different than his former teammate, Lofa Tatupu, who also came from an NFL bloodline, but played his freshman season as an unknown in Maine, before transferring to USC. Tatupu never reached that first round, likely because he appeared on the scout’s radar too late. In two months, Matthews will learn if he’s also penalized for his tardiness or rewarded for his closing performance. With the USC Pro-Day still to come, I believe Matthews will be off the board before April’s opening round comes to an end. And if not, someone will receive a gift in the second.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lendale White and an alleged Valentine's Day beating

Meeting Lendale White on a football field is likely a violent collision. And according to reports out of Denver, meeting him in traffic can be the same. A Colorado fender bender on February 14th apparently resulted in a heated exchange between the former Trojan and the driver of the other vehicle involved. The allegations claim that pushing and shoving became more violent when White began beating the other man with a belt and buckle. The victim, Leslie Joe Hoch, was treated at an area hospital for wounds suffered in the attack.

No arrests were made, and no charges were filed. After an investigation, the authorities concluded that the evidence contradicts the statements of the report. Both the Tennessee Titans and the NFL are aware of the incident, With Titans coach Jeff Fisher offering no comment. White was said to be in full cooperation with the police, as the investigation moved forward.

White plead guilty to a disturbing the peace charge last year, and is currently on probation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Combine notes: Maualuga pulls up lame

Rey Maualuga ran a first attempt 4.83 in the scout combine’s 40-yard dash. He never received a second attempt, pulling up lame at the finish, and collapsing to the turf with a tweaked hamstring. Maualuga said it was something that had been bothersome before his arrival to Indianapolis, but didn’t want to make excuses, wanting only to compete with the best. It’s unsure at this point whether he’ll be able to run by USC’s April 1st Pro-Day.

Wake’s Aaron Curry finished with the fastest 40 among linebackers, recording an official 4.56. Clay Matthews checked in at 4.67, as he continues to raise his stock, and Brian Cushing was officially clocked at 4.74. And in case anyone has interest, Ohio State’s linebacker James Laurinaitis ran a 4.8, with Antonio Freeman finishing with a 4.67.

Brian Cushing and Kaluka Maiava, along with OSU’s Freeman, topped all linebackers with 30 bench press reps. Safety Kevin Ellison completed 32 reps to lead all safeties.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One Trojan creating a combine buzz, but not who you'd think

The NFL combine events have begun, but tight ends were the skill players mostly on Saturday's display. South Carolina's Jared Cook proved to be the superior athlete at the position, displaying a 41" vertical leap and posting an official 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. The big name among tight ends, Brandon Pettigrew of Oklahoma State, performed miserably. His 40 time was in the 4.8 range and he managed just 22 reps in the 225 pound bench press.

Only one USC player peformed, and that was David Buehler. Buehler became a hot topic, as the kicker benched 25 reps and followed by posting a 4.6 in the forty. The 25 reps not only topped Pettigrew, but also many offensive lineman, including Mississippi stud Michael Oher (21).

Rey Maualuga took the podium and talked about slimming down since the Senior Bowl. Rey weighed in at 249, which is 5 pounds shaved from his appearance in Mobile Alabama that drew a lot of criticism. He still appears to be a big favorite among draft analyst, though the consensus is that Wake's Aaron Curry is the top linebacker in the class and should be the first off the board, also having the potential to go No. 1 overall to the Detroit Lions.

Mark Sanchez spent Friday answering questions about the press conference and supposed fallout with Pete Carroll. Mark reassured everyone that his relationship with the coach is just fine, and he had called Carroll that same night to talk about the media spin being put on the press conference and words said. Sanchez reiterated that he will participate in throwing drills, stating that he's a competitor and that's his purpose for being there.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Those other guys crown Utah 2008 football champs

Utah wasn’t completely shutout of championship award ceremonies. has chosen the Mountain West program as their 2008 college football champions. Sure, it won’t be recognized by the gridiron shot-callers, but it just becomes another trophy unrecognized by the NCAA, the organization with the most importance. It adds another piece of hardware to a trash barrel and marks another crowning body on the NCAA “don’t care” list.

The Utes finished as the only undefeated program in America, capping the season with a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama. Kyle Whittingham was the only voter in the final coaches’ poll to defy contractual obligation and select his team No. 1.

With the NCAA not recognizing any football champions, for the lack of a playoff system, CFT’s prize appears in a heap that includes the AP and Coaches champs. And with those powerful media outlets staking their claim to recognizable crowning rights, Utah’s award is hardly a call for a sudden ticker tape parade. What makes CFT’s award less credible than the others? Maybe it’s age. The AP and Coaches’ poll (formerly UPI) have been selecting champions for years. Some people mistakenly make reference to the “BCS champion”, but the BCS is a made for TV event, and the eventual champion, working through the tripod of equations, is crowned by the members of the coaches’ poll.

The AP made their final guess, and chose the Florida Gators as their champion. The coaches determined that the system guessed correctly in placing 2 teams in a championship game, and also chose the Gators. Now CFT adds to the guessing game, and they’ve chosen the only unbeaten program, possessing a superb season resume, and made them the king of the hill. Congratulations, Utah, though no one will remember this by August or record it anywhere in the annals of college football history.

USC scratched from the Brown list

Bryce Brown isn’t scheduled to make an official announcement of his college choice until March 16, but it’s more clear that he won’t be suited in cardinal and gold. The nation’s top running back prospect, who originally gave a verbal to Miami, allowed signing day to come and go, without signing a letter of intent. He comprised a short list of potential candidates that showed LSU, USC, Miami, Tennessee, and Oregon.

The Trojans can now be scratched from that list, as Brown has canceled his official visit to the Los Angeles campus. Brown’s camp says nothing should be made of it, stating that the Kansas back has visited USC once before. But Carroll and his staff are conceding the loss, based on the cancellation, and wishing him well in the future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eagles looking to unload Winston Justice

The NFL experience hasn’t been great for Winston Justice. Character issues created a 2006 draft day slide that finally came to a halt with the eagles selecting the big tackle in the second round. He made headlines in his first and only start, but for all the wrong reasons. His debut on September 30, 2007 is noted in the books, as the Giants tied an NFL record with 12 sacks, and Justice surrendering half the total.

He has just 12 career appearances for Philadelphia, eventually being moved from left to right tackle. Now the Eagles are looking to move him off the roster, and will be shopping the former Trojan to anyone with interest. Philly has two picks in this year’s first round of the draft, and the speculation is that they’ll be looking to draft a left tackle with one of those selections.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

An opportune time for Sanchez to elevate his stock

The NFL draft is a touchy situation for quarterback hopefuls. More than any other position, team need stands the greatest determining factor of a young signal caller’s descent. You can appear near the top of a list of prospects for the position, but still inevitably see a sizable gap between the first quarterback taken and your draft selection.

Sanchez is projected as the No. 2 overall quarterback prospect on most mock draft boards, but those same boards have him going late first or early second round. Quarterback is a high risk draft choice, and to guarantee a top 10 overall selection, it would be more comforting to maintain the top prospect ranking.

The NFL Scout combine will allow Sanchez that opportunity. For many scouts, it will be their first up close and personal look at the kid with only 16 collegiate starts. Sanchez also becomes the big name among hurlers, with speculation that Georgia’s Matthew Stafford won’t work out in the upcoming event.

It’s not uncommon for potential first overall selections to skip workouts. Hell, Matt Ryan did it last year, electing to show up for only the measurements and interviews. Regardless, Ryan was still drafted 3rd overall and represented the first quarterback off the board. Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree has elected not to run the 40 at this year’s combine, citing a nagging ankle injury. And it’s rumored that our own Rey Maualuga will be skipping combine drills, electing to wait for the USC Pro-Day to make his impression.

The lack of experience under center seems to be the greatest concern for scouts evaluating Sanchez. You hear reports of inconsistency when describing Stafford, but never any negatives in reference to the physical tools and game management of USC’s early entrant. The Combine workouts begin on February 18, and Sanchez will be given 7 days to convince everyone that even his lack of experience is worth the draft risk.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

SJ Mock Draft projects Sanchez to Bucs, Maualuga to Denver

Did Sanchez make the right decision to stay or did Pete Carroll have the more realistic view? It all depends on who you talk to and which mock draft you're reading.

The updated Mock at SportsJabber. net projects Mark Sanchez to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It also sends Rey Maualuga to the Jets, and Brian Cushing to the Denver Broncos. Though this mock has Sanchez lower than some, there are others in agreement with Pete Carroll, and the quarterback's name is absent from the first round.

Unlike many mock drafts run by one individual, Sports Jabber has a draft team assembled from all regions of the country. They are the eyes and ears of the nation, and before a prospect is ever postioned on the board, there is an evaluation and group debate. Positions will change several times before April's draft, as we receive results from the NFL Scout Combine and individual Pro-Day workouts. 12 Trojans have been invited to Indianapolis to participate in this year's Combine. Be sure to track the player movement through updates in the draft and Sports Jabber reports.

2009 Sports Jabber Mock Draft (Updated 2/7)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Te’o, No problem

Manti Te’o would have been an additional charm to the 2009 class of Trojans, but the absence, though somewhat unsettling, isn’t crippling to the structure. USC’s loss became Notre Dame’s gain, and everyone was aware of the possibility. But realistically, as much as Te’o is an outstanding 2009 prospect, he’s a more logical projection for 2011. During the recruiting process, Te’o made it clear that his plan is to embark on a 2 year Mormon mission, when he reaches the age of 19. Unless Charlie Weis suits and places him on the field this fall, the name may not be mentioned again for another two years. In fact, though Weis scored big in pulling one of the top linebackers in the country from Hawaii to South Bend, there’s a chance the hot seat coach may not be around when the time comes to coach him.

The Signing Day crew on ESPN was surprised by Vontez Burfict's decision to de-commit from USC and jump on board with Arizona State. I guess they didn’t have their ears near the grapevine, because it’s been swirling for days that he apparently didn’t have the grades for Southern Cal and would become a Sun Devil. He became the second big hit to Trojan expectations, but all is well.

Randall Carroll selected his hat, and chose to go across town to UCLA. Again, it’s not a problem. Carroll has aspirations of playing wide receiver, and the Trojans contemplated using his services as a corner. The last time a top receiver faced the possibility of conversion, he also chose to attend a rival school. That player was DeSean Jackson, who snubbed the Trojans on Signing Day and chose Cal. In all his greatness, Jackson completed his amateur career without a victory or touchdown against USC.

Signing Day may not leave a satisfying taste in your mouth, but that’s because the majority of the class was already set. The top player in the country, Matt Barkley, was enrolled before signing day ever came along. There were strong verbals from others, which made it less dramatic. Pete Carroll and his staff managed to cash in on some of the top talent in California, while also pulling Starling and Telfort from Florida, and Jarvis Jones from Georgia. Would Te’o and Burfict have been nice additions? Sure, but nevertheless, the Trojans are reloaded and ready to roll.

Fight On!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Matt Cassel is ‘pissed’…literally

Matt Cassel, the former Trojan bench warmer turned NFL superstar quarterback, had a right to be angry on Super Bowl weekend. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Steelers or Cardinals and any hopes he had for former USC teammates Matt Leinart and Deuce Lutui to earn a championship ring. It also doesn't stem from his Patriots going 11-5 without qualifying for the AFC playoffs or the Pro Bowl snub of a less recognized signal caller coming off an amazing season. His anger stretches far from the lines drawn on a football field, and originates in a line formed for a public bathroom.

The New York Daily News reports that an angry Matt Cassel took offense to a drunken man attempting to cut in line for a restroom. And though he may have won the argument, momentarily, with the 100-proof cutter retreating, the troublemaker quickly returned to the lavatory, where he drained his bladder on Cassel’s leg. Security escorted the drunk out of the building, but Matty, in urine soaked clothing, still had to make his way through a crowd of gatherers at the ESPN bash.

Don’t steam too long, Matt. The expected $14 million you’ll be earning in 2009 should easily erase the memory of Tampa Bay’s golden shower.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Oregon the new leader of the Pac?

With a reshuffled coaching staff, an exodus of defensive stars, and an NFL bound quarterback, one person already believes that USC has lost its grip on the Pac 10 conference. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports doesn’t make a definite statement, appearing more as “beating around the bush”, but his early 2009 college football rankings show the Ducks positioned higher than the Trojans. The top of his early pick is similar to the final regular season rankings of 2008, with the exception of Southern Cal taking a plunge.

Dennis Dodd’s Early 2009 Top 25

1. Florida
2. Oklahoma
3. Texas
4. Alabama
5. Virginia Tech
6. Oregon
7. Ohio State
8. USC
9. Oklahoma State
10.Georgia Tech

Oregon finished the season strong, capped with a Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State, but I’m still struggling to find reason for Dodd’s catapult above USC. The Ducks also have questions surrounding their coaching staff, with most speculating that Mike Bellotti is preparing to move into the athletic offices, leaving Chip Kelly to hold the reins. The top defensive playmakers, Jarius Byrd and Patrick Chung, have offered their services to the Sunday league, and joining them is their top runner (Jeremiah Johnson), top receiver (Jaison Williams), and two big bodies from the offensive line (Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou). Changes can easily affect both programs, but perhaps he is eyeing the Oregon schedule and change in venue.

Autzen Stadium will host 7 games in 2009. Inside that roaring sound machine, the home team will face Utah, Purdue, Cal, Arizona State, Oregon State, and USC. If they survive the schedule and list of style point opponents, I can see how they would finish in the top 10. They also have a road date with Boise State. But is that change of scenery enough to change the game result against mighty USC? Pete Carroll’s Trojans have lost only twice to Oregon. The first defeat came in 2001, during the miserable beginning of the coach's first year. The second occurred 2 years ago, with Mark Sanchez rushed into the line up for an injured John David Booty, and the banged up Trojans still came close to recording a win. It was Oregon’s second victory against USC in Autzen Stadium, as Carroll’s teams have overcome the noise and crowd ruckus to split 4 games played in this unfriendly pond.

Oregon at No. 6 and USC appearing 8th can only signify a one game difference between the two, which would be the head-to-head meeting in October. Dodd doesn’t say it, but he obviously has the Ducks defeating the Trojans on that day, and for the first time in 7 years, the Pac 10 crowning a new king in December.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gophers headed to the left coast woodshed

It's only been 3 weeks since USC notched another Rose Bowl victory, and made Penn State another Big 10 victim. The eyes are now set on Columbus Ohio, where the Trojans meet their next Midwestern opponent. Most are aware of the track record against the boys from the fading BCS group, but the Minnesota Golden Gophers didn't hesitate to accept the challenge. Once the contract is finalized, Tim Brewster's Gophers will travel to the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2010. And in agreement to the home-and-home series, Carroll's troops will invade Minnesota in 2016.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Senior Bowl Notes: Carroll eyes the action

Wednesday’s practices had a sideline visitor. In between travels for recruiting, Coach Pete Carroll made an appearance in Mobile Alabama to watch his Trojans work. In an interview with Lindsey Soto, he explained how the current competition against the nation’s best isn’t anything new to Trojan players, because they face fierce battles each day in practice. He took photos with the 5 USC players on the field, watched some drills, and was off to catch a plane to his next recruiting destination.

Patrick Turner has a lot to prove, if he’s going to shed the image of other big receivers from USC that couldn’t/haven’t adapted to the professional game. What scouts will be looking for most is his ability to separate from corners, something Mike Williams couldn’t accomplish, and Dwayne Jarrett is slowly achieving after two seasons in Carolina. Turner’s size allows him to standout on the field, with only Cal Poly’s 6’6 Ramses Barden being a larger receiver.

Clay Matthews continues to steal the spotlight. Working as a stand up 3-4 rusher, he beat Mississippi’s Michael Oher on consecutive plays, powering him back and into the QB on the first series, and then using a spin technique to get around the massive tackle to reach his target.

Rey Maualuga is generating more talk, and was interviewed by scouts representing several NFL franchises. Spectators are wowed by his sideline-to-sideline quickness, and there probably isn’t a harder hitter on the field.

There’s still a debate over who is the better linebacker, between Matthews and Brian Cushing. This is great for Clay Matthews, because Cushing’s stock isn’t falling. The debate alone signifies that Matthews has made a climb in draft status.

Fili Moala and Kyle Moore continue to display reasons for the Trojans possessing the nation’s No. 1 defense. From size to technique, they’ve shown everything a scout could ask for. There’s a sense of anticipation whenever USC defenders line up for drills, as they are clearly this year’s Senior Bowl celebrities.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Senior Bowl Notes: Moala and Moore impressive

Senior Bowl week officially began on Monday. Six student-athletes from USC are participating in this year's version, which is 3 less than the year prior, but still the largest representation of any school. It's the NFL's biggest "job fair", with all 32 franchises present to scout future prospects. 5 defensive Trojans took the field on Tuesday morning, and the highest and lowest grades were not as most would expect.

The best Tuesday performances were turned in by Fili Moala and Kyle Moore. Scouts were impressed with Moala's ability to play anywhere along the defensive front. Starting the 2008 season as a possible first overall pick in the 2009 draft, his stock took a severe dive, with other Trojan defensive teammates becoming household names, with Moala quietly, and with little notice, battling in the trenches. Today, he showed the quickness and speed in pursuit that made him a preseason favorite, perhaps leading to a rise in that fallen stock.

Kyle Moore was equally impressive coming off the edge. Moore repeatedly beat his man to get to his target, and is a hybrid that can be used in the down position or standing. He also possesses a frame that can add more weight to increase his effectiveness as a pass rusher.

The stock of Clay Matthews has been soaring. This former walk-on is looking to position himself in the late first round or early second of the upcoming draft, and didn't ease up in his first professional audition. Matthews was agressive in rushing the passer, taking on tight ends, full backs, and defensive linemen, and winning most of those battles. That's no surprise to the Empire, since it's only a repeat of what he's done all year.

Brian Cushing first impressed Senior Bowl scouts with his physique. Walking in with the body of a professional football player, he then made his presence felt everywhere on the field, highlighted by a jarring hit put on a fellow South squad player.

One of the lowest grades of the day went to Rey Maualuga, with the buzz being that he appeared heavier than his playing weight and a bit out of shape. The initial impression led's Tony Pauline to add him to a list of first day sliders. Maualuga also didn't appear dominant in drills coming off the edge, but he was clearly out of position. He's a middle linebacker who is shot out of the cannon and brings the blitz from the center, but struggled to get to the quarterback or cone from the outside angles.

There's still plenty of auditioning to do before the weekend finale. By the time the game is kicking off, the majority of scouts will have already left Alabama. The practices are more important than the main event, so performing well in drills is the top priority.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jeremy Bates heading to USC?

The National Football Post is reporting that former Denver Broncos assistant Jeremy Bates is heading to Los Angeles to accept a position on Pete Carroll's staff. Bates operated as the quarterbacks and receivers coach under Mike Shanahan, and was integral to the development of Jay Cutler. With the shuffling in the Trojans' coaching staff, I'm assuming he'll accept the same position at USC, where he would then add to the continuing growth of Mitch Mustain and Aaron Corp, while also developing the incoming Matt Barkley. If this proves to be truth, this is a great hire for USC.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bradford staying pushes Sanchez into NFL

After a tremendous Rose Bowl performance, and a moment to shine in the national spotlight, Mark Sanchez had a difficult decision to make. Does he remain in school for his senior season or dive into the riches of the NFL? As a projected first round selection, one thing would make the choice easier, and that was another decision in Norman Oklahoma by Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford. As the news began pouring in that Bradford had chosen to stay in school, the thought of USC losing Mark Sanchez appeared a foregone conclusion. And as quickly as ESPN was informing the sports world of the Oklahoma quarterback's choice, is as quickly as they followed with reports of Sanchez foregoing his senior year to enter the NFL draft.

Scouts have flip-flopped on the placement of Mark Sanchez. Some had him second behind Sam Bradford, while others pegged Georgia's Matthew Stafford as the top choice. With Bradford removed from the equation, Sanchez' decision was obvious. He's now guaranteed a first round selection and could possibly be the first quarterback taken in the 2009 draft. Returning to school couldn't possibly lift his draft stock any higher than it is today, so why not latch on to your NFL dream? Matt Leinart returned to USC after his Heisman winning season, with his NFL stock at its peak, and that stock declined the following year.

Once Sanchez makes his formal announcement, he will become the 5th Trojans quarterback to enter the NFL in the past 7 years, joining Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Matt Leinart, and John David Booty. Tailback U? Not anymore.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

3 playmakers returning makes '09 equally bright

Just admit, the thought of numerous player departures from USC was scary. It was even more frightening to look at the defensive side, which had the potential to possibly lose 10 of 11 starters. I'm fully aware that Southern California doesn't "rebuild" but will "reload", as I'm also confident in the talent of those players waiting to fill spots. But nothing replaces gameday experience, and that's where the fear set in. Opening against San Jose State with a depleted roster isn't going to raise the blood pressure. But taking a trip to "The Horshoe" in Columbus, with a revamped coaching staff and an inexperienced defense may bring worry. Though I must say, honestly, I'd still like our chances. But fear quickly subsided, and my mind was more at ease, when this morning a member of the Empire alerted me that the L.A. Daily News was reporting that Taylor Mays has decided to stay in school.

Pete Carroll announced that C.J. Gable and Josh Pinkard would also be attending USC in 2009, allowing 3 major contributors to the Trojans' past success to fight on to continuity and greatness in the future. We're still awaiting an announcement from Mark Sanchez. Let's hope he stays, so we can take this a step farther than we did in 2008.

Fight On!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Coaches vote USC No. 2; AP No. 3

Florida is the unanimous National Champion. Their victory over Oklahoma in the BCS championship game solidified the top spot in the coaches’ poll, and any speculation of a split title ended with the Gators finishing No. 1 in the Associated Press. Texas’ Mack Brown proved to be only a man of words, after announcing from the Fiesta Bowl that he would defy the contractual agreement and vote his Longhorns No. 1. Texas finished third in the coaches poll, behind USC, and received no first place votes. Undefeated Utah had a 4th place finish, with one coach giving the Utes a vote for first.

The Associated Press placed the Trojans third, with one first place vote. That seated them behind Utah (16 votes) and Florida (48). USC occupied the fifth position for several weeks, unable to leap-frog Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma. They finally make the jump in the final poll, when it no longer matters and there is no prize.

The Pac 10 has 4 teams ending in the coaches’ top 25 (USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal), the same as the SEC, and one less than the Big 12, with those conferences hosting 2 more programs than the Pacific 10. Arizona also received votes, giving half the conference recognition among voters. Too little, too late, and it’s time to focus on 2009.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

2009 Trojan recruits will win a National Championship

The recruiting process is far from complete, and rosters remain to be filled. But one man is already making his fearless predictions for incoming classes, and if his vision is correct, a 12th national title for Southern California is on the way. Tom Luginbill is ESPN’s National Recruiting Director for Scouts, Inc, and with only portions of classes assembled, he already has a lot to say.

"Thanks to the recruiting classes landed in 2008 and 2009, USC will win the national championship by 2011. The Pac-10 championship is nearly a foregone conclusion since they play in a down Pac-10. If they don't, either the coaches aren't coaching or the players have dramatically underachieved."

USC is the only Pac 10 team to ever qualify for the BCS championship game, both times needing to finish the regular season undefeated. We’ve learned over the years that a one-loss Trojans team isn’t likely to get in, though they had an opportunity in 2006, before gathering a second loss in the last week of the season. But mostly, the Pac 10 will never overcome the popularity of other BCS conferences that may be hosting programs with an equal amount of losses. So when coupled with his statement of “coaches not coaching” or “players underachieving”, his projection insinuates that the Trojan youth will inevitably complete a perfect season.

Other predictions include Miami winning the ACC in ’09, and Texas quarterback recruit Garrett Gilbert winning the Heisman Trophy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NFL, Trojans, and the quest for the Lombardi Trophy

More Trojans have participated in the NFL's Superbowl than any other college program in America. Of the 42 Superbowl’s played, only twice did a Trojan not appear on the roster of either team contending. Last year, the Giants’ Steve Smith was fitted for the championship ring, claiming his first, while denying Junior Seau and the Patriots a perfect season. Seau, Cassel, and the 11-5 Patriots will sit out this postseason, not qualifying for the championship chase, but a plethora of Trojans still remain in the hunt.

The Chargers, Colts, Ravens, and Dolphins have no Trojans on the roster, and the Vikings (though employing Booty, Radovich, and Udeze) have none active in game time participation. But these players and their teams will begin their march towards championship glory:

Arizona Cardinals-G Deuce Lutui, QB Matt Leinart

Philadelphia Eagles-T Winston Justice, DT Mike Patterson

Atlanta Falcons-T Sam Baker

New York Giants-WR Steve Smith, CB Terrell Thomas

Carolina Panthers-WR Dwayne Jarrett, C Ryan Kalil

Pittsburgh Steelers-S Troy Polamalu

Tennessee Titans-RB Lendale White

All players listed played under Pete Carroll, with Troy Polamalu being the only Trojan not to win a national Championship at USC. The playoff list is also fielding 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen from the championships of 2003 and 2004.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Trojans silence critics with 38-24 Rose Bowl paddling of Penn State

Let’s just rename the event and call it “The woodshed” powered by Citi. For the third consecutive year, the Trojans have dragged their Big 10 Rose Bowl opponents behind that Pasadena shed, where they were paddled into submission. A new program, new coaching staff, new theories, and a fresh batch of criticism, yet we have the same results. Though the 38-24 final score may appear respectable and hint of a 4 quarter war on the football field, this was total domination by USC, in a game that was basically over at the half.

All the Penn State offerings that were supposed to make this game different than others were wrong. Daryll Clark was hardly a weapon, same goes for Royster, Norwood, Maybin, and any others you’d like to include. The underdog factor was insignificant, and Joe Paterno’s month of preparation was irrelevant. But of all the criticism, the one furthest from truth, and most likely to make “experts” embarrassed of their own words, was the so called “struggles and inconsistency” of the Southern Cal offense.

After 2 quarters, USC already had 31 points on the board, with Penn State stuck on 7. Mark Sanchez orchestrated a merciless passing attack that made the Nittany Lions secondary appear as one of the softest the Trojans had faced all season. Of the 33 Rose Bowl games played by USC, the 31 points scored represent the most ever by a Southern California team in the first half. Sanchez finished the day with 413 yards, completing 28 of 35 passes. He threw for 4 touchdowns, and added another on the ground. Damian Williams had his way with the Lions secondary, concluding his day with 10 receptions for 162 yards and a score.

The well publicized Trojans defense lived up to the billing in the first half, clamping down and restricting any Penn State movement. After scoring early in the first quarter, the Lions were shutout in the 2nd and third quarters, before accumulating meaningless scores and yards in the fourth, with the Trojans clearly in command and anticipating the final ticks of the clock. Even after the Lions went 80 yards on 10 plays for a 4th quarter touchdown, against a defense that surrenders few scores in the second half of football games, the Trojans quickly answered with a 3 play 85 yard drive that was capped by a 45 yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Ronald Johnson. If the Lions questioned the Trojans ability to resurrect the offense, they shouted an affirmative answer on that drive.

The often scrutinized Pac 10 finishes 5-0 in the postseason, defeating 4 ranked opponents in the 5 games played. If you include Notre Dame’s victory in the Hawaii bowl, 5 of USC’s regular season opponents were triumphant in Bowl games, with Ohio State still waiting to play. The Trojans became the first program to win 3 consecutive Rose Bowls, and Pete Carroll becoming the first coach to do so. The Trojans have now won 9 straight over Big 10 opponents, with all games decided by double digits. The victory also gives USC a 6-1 record in BCS Bowl games, and their 31st bowl victory to tie Alabama for the most all time.