Can Trojan Fans Trust Bill Plaschke?

Bill Plaschke Column: 12-0? Believe it. USC should sweep through its regular season

They have the best college football player in the country.

They have the best offensive football coach in the country.

They have the best offensive analyst in the country.

They play in the most fertile name, image and likeness market in the country.

There’s not one moment that should be considered too big, not one trip that should feel too far, and not one game in which they won’t be favored.

They have the star, the smarts, the savvy, the salesmanship and the schedule to own the autumn and dominate into winter.

The conversation around the 2023 USC Trojans football team’s regular season should begin with one word.

Undefeated.

Los Angeles, CA - April 15: USC head coach Lincoln Riley, left, and USC quarterback.

If the Trojans play up to their potential, they should be perfect during their 12-game regular season, setting themselves up for a wild crapshoot of a postseason.

Unfair expectations? They lost to only one team on last year’s regular-season schedule and should be noticeably better.

Too much pressure? Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams are paid handsomely to handle the heat.

Still can’t tackle? The defense added several transfer giants who should prevent any more Tulane-sized collapses.

Unrealistic to expect an unbeaten regular season two years after they won just four games? Hey, Riley’s honeymoon is over, the opportunity to celebrate last year’s improvement is past, these are his players, this is his program, this is his moment.

Nobody would dare predict the playoffs, but their journey to that point seems clear.

USC, 12-0 or bust.

USC coach Lincoln Riley answers questions at Pac-12 media day last month in Las Vegas.

“Listen, we got a great opportunity in front of us,” Riley said last month at Pac-12 media day. “I think everybody within our program, every player, senses that and wants to do a great job of taking advantage of this. These windows are short. You only get so many shots at this.”

USC indeed has to take that shot because the window truly is closing fast. This will be the last season with Williams and could be the last season with Riley. With several big NFL jobs possibly coming vacant this winter, the quarterback genius could tire of another post-Heisman rebuild and decide it’s finally time to take the leap.

Williams is gone, he’ll be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Riley could be gone, living the dream, from Muleshoe, Texas, to the Dallas Cowboys. Suddenly, strangely, for a program that is just getting started, this almost feels like a last stand.

“This day and age, it’s been talked about a lot, you can build rosters faster than you could before, but you still can’t do everything in one year,” Riley said. “It can’t happen. You can make dramatic changes, but not everything. … We were proud of what we did in Year 1, but certainly very focused on what we felt like Year 2 could be.”

And what a year it should be.

They should sprint out to comfortable wins in their first six games — San Jose State, Nevada, Stanford, Arizona State, Colorado and Arizona. Only Arizona State and Colorado are on the road, and those teams were a combined 4-20 last season.

This leads to their first big test, Oct. 14 at Notre Dame, with the Irish probably being a nine-win team. But note, they were a nine-win team last season and USC dominated them at the Coliseum, the 11-point margin appearing close only because of a late Irish touchdown. In this new NIL and transfer portal era, the Irish just don’t have access to the same great athletes that are available to USC, and it shows.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs for his third touchdown of the game against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2022.

The week after visiting Notre Dame, the Trojans return home to host Utah and, even if lovable quarterback Cameron Rising has fully recovered from his knee injury, there’s no way the Utes beat a Lincoln Riley team three times in one calendar year.

After what will be essentially a bye week at California, the Trojans face the three-game meat of their schedule — home against Washington, at Oregon and home against UCLA.

The Huskies and Ducks have decent quarterbacks — Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix, respectively — but neither is the caliber of Williams. The game at Autzen should be the Trojans’ toughest of the regular season, but if you believe the well-stocked and revamped Trojans defense will be at full speed by then, you believe USC will survive.

That leaves just a season finale against UCLA and, while it’s always foolish to attempt to predict this game, it feels like the Bruins will be in a bit of a rebuild and the Coliseum will be rocking.

There it is, 12-0, an unbeaten team set for the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas and perhaps a national semifinal game at the Rose Bowl, and at that point, anything is possible.

Of course, for all that to happen, two seemingly predictable things have to happen.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams, left, and USC head coach Lincoln Riley react to a play during the spring game in April.

First, Caleb Williams has to be Caleb Williams.

He’s already the best Trojans quarterback that this observer has ever seen. Now he has a chance to be the best quarterback in college football history if he can become the first to win consecutive Heisman Trophies. Not to mention, he can become the most NFL-ready quarterback to enter the draft since Andrew Luck more than a decade ago.

Los Angeles, CA - April 15: 2022 Former USC running back Travis Dye left, watches Heisman winner Caleb Williams.

Williams lost favorite target Jordan Addison but still has a bevy of experienced receivers bolstered by kid phenom Zachariah Branch. And, oh yeah, and Williams now is being tutored by quarterback whisperer Kliff Kingsbury.

Williams should be able to have a starring second act. But, then again, everyone knows how poorly this town does sequels. Everyone knows how Hollywood can get into somebody’s head. Whatever happens, Williams clearly understands the magnitude of the moment.

“We got a lot to go get this year,” he said at media day. “Everyone has the same goal and mindset this year, whatever-it-takes kind of mindset to get all of what we want. It’s going to be a good year. Can’t wait. Really excited.”

Second, Alex Grinch cannot be last year’s Alex Grinch.

He won’t be. He can’t be. The defense can’t be any worse, right?

The Trojans’ defensive coordinator was fortunate he didn’t get bounced after USC allowed 37 points per game in the final eight games of the season and allowed nearly 2,000 yards in its final four games, capped by that amazing collapse against Tulane.

Despite the screaming for Grinch’s ouster. Riley backed his buddy. He kept him employed. It is a gamble that could define a season.

“I’ve been through it enough with that guy to know, don’t bet against him,” Riley told reporters of Grinch. “I know what he’s made of. I just do, and I know it’s getting ready to happen defensively, and so I just have a confidence and a belief there. … I know we have the right person there.”

Southern California head coach Lincoln Riley, left, talks with defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

Speaking of the right people, check out these names: Mason Cobb. Bear Alexander. Anthony Lucas. Kyon Barrs. Those are just some of the new talented hitters that the Trojans hope will add toughness to a team that couldn’t tackle.

Earlier this summer, Riley told reporters that new faces don’t necessarily mean instant success. It was as if he realized the potential power in this roster and wanted to immediately temper expectations.

“Individual guys here and there, that’s great, but you gotta get them to coexist and to work together and act as one and on all three sides of the ball, that’s the fight right now,” Riley said. “The narrative is all these things return, everybody thinks you pick up where you left off and that could not be further from the truth. It’s — everything’s different, we’ve got so many different faces and I think just the group coming together and learning to not just be a group of some talented guys but be a group that plays very well together, we’ve gotta close that gap there.”

Nice, noble try, coach. But everyone knows the exact truth. This is a city of champions, folks recognize a special season when they see one, and for Trojans football, this should be that season.

Nobody’s perfect. But beginning on the last Saturday in August, and continuing for a dozen occasions across three memorable months, USC should be.

latimes.com

________

TrojanDailyBlog members  —  We always encourage you to add information, insight, divergent opinions, or new topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

SUBSCRIBE HERE TO RECEIVE NOTICE OF NEW COMMENTS OR REPLIES.
Notify of
47 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
Offline
August 21, 2023 1:50 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Doesn’t seem to want to play.

Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
Offline
August 21, 2023 2:03 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I finally got it to work.

TrojanRJJ
Noble Genius
TrojanRJJ
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:33 am

To change the topic a bit, I just read parts of Bruce Feldman’s “freaks of collegiate football” article. His #1 freak is a true frosh WR at South Carolina. The kid is 6’5″ and 245 lbs. He runs a 10.2 100 meters (that is a 9.1 in yards). When I read it, I was reminded of a kid SC recruited years ago whose name I think was Farmer. Similar size and similar speed. He never made it football! Kiffin put him at RB! A kid with this size and speed probably needs to play D, not O. If he has… Read more »

RialtoTrojan
Noble Genius
RialtoTrojan
Offline
August 21, 2023 10:31 am

Plashke is Scott Wolf’s older brother from another mother. One dropped pass, one missed tackle or one bad call from either offensive or defensive coach during the first game and he’ll bring out the bad guy. Maybe Wolf will agree to ghost write the first after-game report. Can we trust him? Not as far as you can throw his paper. I posted on Wolf, that the first three games are trap games, USC can fall into the trap of believing their press clippings and not show up for the “real opponents.” If we aren’t kicking the Cardinal’s butts by halftime… Read more »

alfa1
Genius Member
alfa1
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:40 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Jen Cohen seems a good but not great hire, thought she WILL NEVER Eclipse the Grand Slam Bohn and Sosna pulled off.

Pres. Folt must have felt there was too much testosterone in Mens Sports in making the hire.
We’ll see !

Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
Offline
August 21, 2023 1:49 pm
Reply to  alfa1

She appears to be the type that the testosterone does not bother her. She seems well grounded and confident. Going into the B1G she will need to be on her toes and astute to the ways of the B1G. Best of luck to her, I think she is going to be a really good one for USC. And easy on the eyes for a change.

alfa1
Genius Member
alfa1
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:42 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

If the 9’er front line can protect him, that’s my concern.

RialtoTrojan
Noble Genius
RialtoTrojan
Offline
August 21, 2023 10:45 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

She is from Southern California (area) grew up in Arcadia and went to school in San Diego. The fact that she is female, probably doesn’t factor into anything, but there might not be any harassment charges following her.
If this is true she should be able to get things done. Maybe this is a good hire.

TrojanRJJ
Noble Genius
TrojanRJJ
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:22 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Sounds like a great hire for a Folt run culture. First, a female and second is competent to extremely competent.. Given that Folt has decided that SC football being elite is part of her agenda, such a hire looks to be quite good. The WA AD made a mistake in hiring Lake, but immediately admitted the mistake and fired him. It takes a lot of guts to fire a black HC in a very progressive culture. For example, I doubt Stanford would have ever fired Shaw. She then made an inspired hire in replacing a black with a white (DeBoer),… Read more »

TrojanRon
Genius Member
TrojanRon
Offline
August 21, 2023 4:09 am

Bill Plashke has always been an enigma to me for years. Some days he’s “all-in” on USC and others it seems as though he can’t stand the Trojans. We all have hope at the start of the season that SC will go undefeated. This team is not the same as the undefeated teams SC has had in the past. The one I remember most is 1972 as I was a Senior at Glendale High School, only about 20 miles from the SC campus. Started with a great Defense. On Offense, the Trojans were 2 deep. Mike Rae and Pat Haden… Read more »

Chris
Major Genius
Chris
Offline
August 20, 2023 4:58 pm

In my opinion, the biggest difference from this year to last will be the D-line. Last year we had one, this year we gave many. We might not have another Tuli, but we have way more production across the line. No doubt that Kyon, Bear, Lucas, Sullivan, and Jamil are a huge upgrade. Sullivan might not start and he would have been our 2nd best last year. We are going to play 8-10 guys across the line regularly. So much better than last year. With that said, Cobb is our biggest upgrade. He is a much better player than Lee… Read more »

USC1988
Noble Genius
USC1988
Offline
August 20, 2023 7:36 pm
Reply to  Chris

Call me crazy but I’m excited to watch the USC D this year ! Last year was painful.Not just the losses but those agonizing Zona and Cal games.

TrojanRJJ
Noble Genius
TrojanRJJ
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:24 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, how about the last 8 games of 2022. The D was horrible against AZ and Cal. Cal had a horrible O last year – our D made them look like world beaters. The game came down to the last possession. Caleb had to keep scoring TDs to win that one. Same with AZ.

volunteerTrojan
Noble Genius
August 21, 2023 1:26 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

As I’ve often said, I’d rather be us than play us!

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 20, 2023 3:44 pm

12-0……..Some folks seem to be ignoring the improvement of our opponents.

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 21, 2023 8:30 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Well……maybe 10-2. Maybe 11-1….maybe 9-3. If I had to bet 10-2. I don’t see us expecting to beat Oregon. If we do, maybe 12-0 is possible. They have an improved defense Their pass rush is going to be excellent. A top notch offense with a very good experienced QB and top notch receivers and rb’s. Connerly is now their left tackle with some good transfers on the OL. IMO they are underrated by the national folks. We play there…..after a number of tough physical games and having UCLA the next week. Lanning is turning out to be a solid head… Read more »

TrojanRJJ
Noble Genius
TrojanRJJ
Offline
August 21, 2023 8:49 am
Reply to  illinoisusc

Illinois, I think this year’s team has the talent and coaching that is as good as any SC team in decades: I rank only the Bush/Leinart team in 2005 and probably several McKay teams (I think one had 20 kids drafted) higher. Thus, for the first time is a very long time, 12-0 against a very tough schedule is not a pipe dream. In fact, it is not unrealistic to make such a prediction. But, going 12-0 is very difficult to do. I think 10-2 is the more probable outcome (we are playing 4, maybe 5 top 15 teams in… Read more »

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 21, 2023 9:49 am
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

Yes, 10-2 against this schedule is very good. It’s as if the pac before the rest left wanted to screw us good. I am not saying 12-0 is impossible…..but to call for it……with this schedule and some questions marks on the team……even with the best QB I’ve seen in……a long time……anywhere……to me is hard to do.

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 21, 2023 9:45 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

OK…lol….if you are correct we’ll all raise a beer in your honor…..if you’re wrong…….wait til next year.

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 21, 2023 10:08 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

It’s hard to know….as you know, it’s just that the game we watched and played years ago is gone……it’s money money and money. If he gets offered a billion to go….who would second guess him….on the other hand he would leave with USC in a much better situation…..even without Williams……heck….thinking about it……any day without Helton is a better day.

Golden Trojan
Noble Genius
Golden Trojan
Offline
August 21, 2023 10:41 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

One wild card is would his wife want to uproot the kids again and leave LA for Dallas. Pros and cons to that factor.

TrojanRJJ
Noble Genius
TrojanRJJ
Offline
August 21, 2023 11:27 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

We will see. I think LR is making more money than any NFL HC. Why would he leave? He is a great collegiate coach. Saban did not translate to the NFL. I cannot see him leaving unless his wife really hates Southern Cal and living in a mansion on the water in Palos Verdes.

volunteerTrojan
Noble Genius
August 21, 2023 12:07 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I think there’s a perception that most successful college coaches failed after making the NFL. This is due to some big names like Steve Spurrier and Lou Holtz having failed epically. But if one were to look up successful college coaches who have succeeded after making the jump, you’d find the list just as long and impressive. So, it’s a false perception.

alfa1
Genius Member
alfa1
Offline
August 21, 2023 12:17 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

I don’t think Riley will go anywhere Until after he Wins a National Championship. Once that is done, he will have achieved the highest award in CFB. Then it’s Onward and Upward for his personal goals. Who knows what those are ? Money, most of the Pro Teams can match or exceed his current compensation. as far as Dallas…don’t denigrate it, no, it doesn’t have the Plastic charade of Hollywood or Silicone Valley money, it has Old Quiet Money, lots of it, a vibrant High Society and a strong political influence in Texas & D.C. When Dallas is winning they… Read more »

Golden Trojan
Noble Genius
Golden Trojan
Offline
August 20, 2023 8:56 pm
Reply to  illinoisusc

Illini you are right. USC may be improved all over but how strong are Utah, Washington, Oregon and SUCLA? We shall see a little bit in a about 2 weeks. Utah has Florida at home on 8/31. No body plays anybody tough for a while.

illinoisusc
Noble Genius
illinoisusc
Offline
August 21, 2023 10:22 am
Reply to  Golden Trojan

Yep, if Utah gets blown out by Florida…..well…..it will be time to start thinking about the pac 12 championship….and beyond.

PN4SC
Genius Member
PN4SC
Offline
August 20, 2023 3:07 pm

I wouldn’t trust Plaschke to run a lemonade stand, let alone handicap a teams football season. It an obvious( and pathetic) attempt at getting clicks. If we don’t go 12-0, that doesn’t make the season a failure, and while we will probably lose Riley one day, I fully expect him around in 2024.
Plaschke is a mental and moral midget.

TrojanInTX
TrojanInTX
Offline
August 20, 2023 2:43 pm

I think it’s possible if the D steps up. Which I think is going to
happen. If Grinch can’t coordinate a D with this kind of talent he needs to be demoted.

Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
Offline
August 20, 2023 3:20 pm
Reply to  TrojanInTX

When you look at it, the defense cannot get any worse. Logic says it HAS to improve. Caleb and the offense will be better than last year simply because they are bigger and stronger and deeper. Grinch will either have a competent defense or he should be replaced. It would be tragic to see this years offense not have some kind of defense to back them up.

Steveg
Noble Genius
Steveg
Offline
August 20, 2023 3:22 pm
Reply to  Steveg

Going 12-0 is very possible.