In search of storylines during a USC bye week


Today is a tough day for columnists.

It’s the Thursday before an open Saturday and after a statement Saturday.

In laymen’s terms: USC doesn’t play this Saturday. And last Saturday, the Trojans silenced all the critics.

Well-earned rest · After celebrating their easy victory over Cal,  the Trojans answered a lot of questions, columnist Grant Tunkel writes. - Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Well-earned rest · After celebrating their easy victory over Cal, the Trojans answered a lot of questions, columnist Grant Tunkel writes. - Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Can the defense handle the Heisman front-runner Jahvid Best? Yes. He’s now on the Heisman backburner.

Can the offense handle the Cal 3-4 defense? Yes. The first two plays went for one yard. The next 75 went for 456.

Will the special teams finally come to play? Yes. A dazzling 66-yard punt return score by redshirt junior wide receiver Damian Williams, a perfect day in the field goal department and a 40-yard average day for the punter.

Can junior running back Joe McKnight handle an increased workload? Yes. Was Ohio State lightning in a bottle for freshman quarterback Matt Barkley? No. Were Cal quarterback Kevin Riley’s first three games an anomaly? USC’s defense made it look that way.

For the time being, there’s no questionable play-calling to talk about, no poor throws to scrutinize and no awful penalties that nearly cost the game to analyze.

So what is a columnist to do on a Thursday in the middle of a relatively slow week?

I could give you an early look at Notre Dame, but I won’t. I’ll just tell you the Irish are down one of their best players in sophomore wide receiver Michael Floyd and that junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen seems to have some sort of nagging foot injury. Let that marinate over the weekend.

I could give you a “Viewer’s Guide to the Weekend Without a USC Football Game,” but I won’t. I’ll just note that there are some very intriguing football games this week.

No. 24 Missouri hosts No. 21 Nebraska tonight.

One-loss Boston College travels to No. 5 Virginia Tech in the topsy-turvy ACC in the morning hours (at least on this coast).

No. 3 Alabama plays on the road at No. 20 Mississippi. At the same time, undefeated Wisconsin plays on the road in the Horseshoe against No. 9 Ohio State. And No. 13 Oregon squares off at one-loss UCLA.

A little later, No. 1 Florida travels to No. 4 LSU sans Tim Tebow at the helm (for the time being). Michigan (4-1) plays at No. 12 Iowa (5-0). No. 22 Georgia Tech heads to Tallahassee to take on Florida State, Bobby Bowden rumors and all.

I could tell you that a LSU win will eliminate Florida from national championship contention, but I won’t. I’ll just note that it’s going to take two Florida losses to completely eliminate them from the picture — especially if the first one comes without that one guy who plays quarterback.

I could write this column about the art of picking college football games, but I won’t. I’ll just say that you should probably do the opposite of my picks in this week’s “Best Bets” section.

I could mention that the coaches will be using this free weekend to take recruiting trips, but I won’t.

I could tell you that those trips probably won’t prevent USC coach Pete Carroll from tweeting. But then again, I can’t say with any certainty that there isn’t some rule in the NCAA book that prevents that. So I won’t.

I could talk about the beginning of the MLB playoffs this week, but you probably already knew that, so I won’t.

I could mention that the NHL season is getting underway, but I have this sinking feeling that that probably doesn’t mean a lot to you, so I won’t.

I could talk about the USC women’s volleyball team’s Friday night showdown at Pauley Pavilion against UCLA, but I won’t. We have a volleyball writer who can do that.

I could talk about the men’s water polo team’s busy weekend, which includes two games each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But I won’t. We have a beat writer for that too.

I could preview the women’s soccer team’s two games at home this weekend, which open Pac-10 play, but I won’t. Yes, you guessed it — we have a beat writer for that as well.

I could write about the difference between watching a football game from the student section and from the press box, but that’s already been done, so I won’t.

I could give you an inside look at the press boxes of the various football stadiums I’ve been to this year, but I won’t. (Although it’s worth mentioning that the Horseshoe does have a McFlurry machine.)

I could throw in a few not-so-clever jokes and clichés, but I won’t. I want you to actually read this in the future.

I could fill this column with some rambling, not-very-cohesive thoughts about anything and everything. But I won’t.

Wait a minute. I think I just did that.

Oops.

I guess you could call it a case of a quiet Thursday.

“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Grant at tunkel@usc.edu.