The famine is over.
I don’t know how you survived, but you made it. The new dawn tomorrow brings a day that you’ve all been waiting eight months for — a day that seemed so far off in April, you wished you could just fall asleep and wake up on Sept. 5.
Tomorrow, that insatiable hunger that you’ve felt since Jan. 2 will miraculously disappear, and you will finally get to indulge in the tailgates, burgers and beer.
But as you fill yourself up, you will have one eye on the clock, awaiting 12:30 p.m., because then comes the dessert you’ve been after. And when that time comes, when the whistle sounds and the ball is sent high above the Coliseum, you will stand there wide-eyed and cheer like a child on Christmas morning because it can only mean one thing: USC football is finally here.
Of course, this won’t be the same Trojans I or most of the nation expected to come out on the field. After Cary Harris intercepted Penn State QB Daryll Clark to end the Rose Bowl, I thought I had seen the last of one player but just the beginning of another.
I expected safety Taylor Mays, the only guy in college football that opponents escape from by running toward their own end zone, to take his bone-crushing hits to the NFL and leave a Mt. Wilson Observatory-sized hole in the secondary. But that was okay, because junior quarterback Mark Sanchez, who looked so flawless and unbeatable in the Rose Bowl, was expected to come back to an offense loaded with talent at the skill positions and in the trenches.
Obviously, as was played out in the offseason, neither of those expectations were fulfilled. Mays is here to break some more bones, and I won’t be shocked to see Jahvid Best or Terrelle Pryor take a page out of Beanie Wells’ book and injure a toe the week before they are scheduled to play against us. But two days after Mays announced his decision to stay, Sanchez decided to leave USC for greener uniforms, much to the chagrin of Pete Carroll and USC football fans.
Yet, USC fans should thank Sanchez rather than spite him, as it was because of his departure that we were able to survive one of the longest offseasons in college football history. In fact, yesterday’s official start to the college football season marked the latest opening day for Football Bowl Subdivision since 1981.
Sanchez’s departure meant that a new quarterback was to be chosen to lead the Trojans into the Coliseum tomorrow, and between redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp, redshirt junior Mitch Mustain and early-enrolled freshman Matt Barkley, there was no clear-cut favorite.
So, it was this quarterback competition that I lived on for eight months. First, Corp was named the starter in April. Then after three and a half months of inactivity, when I was relegated to watching reruns of the Rose Bowl on ESPNU, the first Coaches’ Poll of the season came out with USC ranked No. 4.
Three days later, Corp, and seemingly USC’s title hopes, went down when he cracked his fibula.
But Barkley was handed the reins to the team. This is a guy who went 6-for-12 for 57 yards and had an interception in the end zone in his first intrasquad scrimmage way back in April. Yet, his 10-for-17 for 154 yards and two-touchdown (one run and one pass) performance last weekend instilled a sense of anticipation that I haven’t felt on this campus since I arrived in 2007.
It’s not the anticipation that comes with the expectations of competing in the national championship four months down the road, because for the first time since 2006, nobody is predicting USC to play for the national title.
It’s an anticipation that USC fans want to see a team that they don’t really know the capabilities of. The Trojans are underdogs in the national landscape of college football and with a true freshman starting at quarterback for a top-five team for the first time since 1975, USC fans are excited about the history this team is capable of making.
USC football has finally arrived. I’m not sure what kind of team the Cardinal and Gold will be tomorrow (will they pass or run more?), and that adds to the excitement. I hope Barkley dominates in his first game, but the unknown adds a little something extra to the season opener: something that would’ve been missed had Sanchez stayed.
The Trojans are capable of dominating again. But will they dominate the Pac-10 and appear in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1? Or will they defy the nation’s expectations and march into the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7 playing for the national title? I don’t know the answer; we’ll just have to wait week-by-week to figure it out.
And that’s just how I like it.
“Spittin’ Sports” runs Fridays. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org.