I Get Questions


USC will need receivers like Travon Patterson to step up in 2008.

Eric Hyde, from the college football blog Saturday Sound Offs and a contributor here at SoCal Sports Hub, was kind enough to ask me a few questions about the USC football team’s upcoming 2008 season. Here are his questions my answers. Enjoy! (Mind you that question number one was answered about a month ago)

1. What’s your take on the QB situation?

For personal reasons, I really don’t like Mark Sanchez. Back in 2006, he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault after a 19 year old female USC student filed a complaint against the then-freshman quarterback. The following day, he was released from jail, after posting a $200,000 bail, and was suspended from the team for the rest of the spring. While I understand that college students and young people in general make many mistakes, Sanchez’s actions following the incident were quite immature and really put him in my doghouse. When media members such as Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times asked him about the incident, Sanchez replied, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. A simple no comment would have sufficed if he didn’t wish to talk about his arrest, but instead, Sanchez assumed that the fans and media were all too stupid to figure out what the situation was. In addition to his arrest, Sanchez has always came across as a cocky guy during interviews and is the only member of the football team to not wear the official gold mouthpiece- he wears one with the Mexican flag on it.

So obviously, during Spring practice, I was rooting for Mitch Mustain, not Mark Sanchez, to become USC’s starting quarterback this season citing his experience as Arkansas’s starter in 2006, strong arm, and high-profile status coming out of high school. However, I think that I was primarily rooting against Sanchez than I was really rooting for Mustain in the first place.

In order to be objective towards Sanchez and Mustain, I have been trying to unleash all of my Anti-Sanchez bias before training camp opens and the season tees off in late August.

So, biased aside, I really have no problem with Sanchez being named the starter and see no reason as to why he wouldn’t excel as the Trojans’ signal caller in 2008. Standing at 6 feet and 225 pounds, Sanchez has all of the physical tools to become one of the best quarterbacks in Pac-10 and possibly even the entire country. He has a cannon for an arm and is more than capable of getting the ball to his receivers deep down field. In terms of physical abilities, Sanchez is as good as they in terms of collegiate athletes. In addition to his strong arm, Sanchez is actually quite mobile for a quarterback. While he isn’t a Vince Young or a Michael Vick, Sanchez is mobile enough to make some plays with his legs, which is more than could be said about either John David Booty or Matt Leinart.

However, what makes me more optimistic about Sanchez is the fact that he already has some in-game experience, in which his predecessors, Booty, Leinart, and Palmer, did not have before their first season as a starter. Last season, Sanchez started three games (Arizona, Notre Dame, and Oregon) in replacement of John David Booty and performed admirably for a first-time starter. Sanchez threw for 695 yards with a touchdown to interception ratio of 7:5.

Due to his familiarity with the program and tremendous skill set, Sanchez is going to do quite well in 2008.

I can’t believe I just said that.

2. What are your thoughts on the USC/Ohio State game this year?

While I have no idea who is going to win this classic September matchup between the Trojans and the Buckeyes, I can guarantee that it’s going to be one of the most exhilarating games of the 2008 season. There is no excuse if you miss this game. If the Trojans are going to pull off the victory against the Buckeyes than Mark Sanchez must play extremely well. Due to Sanchez’s inexperience look for Ohio State to put eight or even nine guys in the box to stop USC’s ultra talented running backs (Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, and C.J. Gable). If the Trojans are unable to gain any yardage on first or second down, I question whether Sanchez will be good enough to convert third and longs. My initial instinct to that question is no. So, provided that the Trojans can establish a well-balanced attack against Ohio State’s stingy defense, I see no reason why they can’t win this highly-anticipated matchup.

3. Is the offensive line going to be okay with all of the departures?

A lot of people have been asking me about the offensive line since the Trojans lose four of the five starters (LT Sam Baker, C Matt Spanos, RG Chilo Rachal, RT Drew Radovich) from a year ago. However, many of this year’s starters have had some prior experience so they should be okay. Last season, LT Butch Lewis started three games in replace of the injured All-American Sam Baker at left tackle. Kristofer O’Dowd started the season opener at center in replace of the injured Matt Spanos. While the unit’s 26 career starts is ninth fewest in the NCAA, the offensive line’s limited experience and overall talent should enable them to come close to last year’s production.

4. What Pac-10 team seems the most threatening to USC’s hopes of winning the Pac-10 championship, again?

A lot people, including SI.com’s Stewart Mandel, believe that Arizona State is going to pose the biggest threat to USC’s conference title threats this season. However, I am somewhat reluctant to anoint the Sun Devils as the biggest threat to USC, since they somewhat overachieved a year ago. This year, their schedule is a lot tougher compared to 07, see a visit from Georgia on September 20, and many of their conference showdowns are on the road.

With that said, I actually think that Oregon is much more of a threat to USC despite the departures of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart. During the Sun Bowl against South Florida, the young quarterback Justin Roper showed some potential to run the spread option quite effectively and he could possibly make fans forget about Dennis Dixon. If Roper does not get the start at quarterback, ESPN.com’s Pac-10 Blogger Ted Miller believes that sophomore quarterback Nate Costa could do quite well as the starter for the Ducks. Last season, running backs Andre Crenshaw and Jeremiah Johnson proved to be capable backups and could help to form a consistent running attack in replace of Jonathan Stewart. Provided that the Ducks find a quarterback and the defense finds some productive replacements in the front seven, the Ducks could end of second in the conference.

5. Is the BCS title game in the foreseeable future for the Trojans?

I think the Trojans will most likely advance to the BCS Championship game even if they lose to Ohio State in September. Last year, USC had to overcome playing all of their toughest Pac-10 opponents on the road, and this year, they play all of them in the Coliseum. Because of a favorable schedule, the Trojans should be able to reach the BCS title game despite the fact that they return just eleven starters and lose a league high 26 letterman.