USC Football: 7 Ways for the Trojans to Live Up to the Hype
For the 2012 version of the men of Troy, the rallying cry is "prep not hype."
However, for everyone else, the hype machine is in full gear.
With the Trojans entering the upcoming season as the No. 1 team in AP Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today/Coaches preseason poll, the accolades on USC's behalf are being offered in abundance.
But how will they live up to such huge expectations from their fan base and those who follow college football?
While Lane Kiffin and his crew focus on the preparation for the 2012 season, this slide show will look at how they can justify their elevated station in both the polls and in peoples minds.
This is how the Trojans will earn their hype.
No. 7: The Trojans Must Hope for Their Opponents to Be Successful
One factor that will enter into the Trojans living up to the hype that surrounds them is a component that they will have absolutely no control over.
If USC's opponents can cobble together impressive records, that will help the Trojans with "strength of schedule" arguments, which, while no longer a factor in bowl considerations, still carry a lot of weight in the minds of those assessing the quality of specific teams.
On the other hand, if their opponents collectively fall on their faces in 2012, it will weaken arguments of exactly how good the Trojans are this year.
No. 6: A Strong Running Game Leaves Opposing D-Coordinators Without Hope
Pity the hapless opposing defensive coordinators who must somehow come up with a game plan to stop the Trojans offense.
It's tough enough to try to deter a passing game that features Heisman front-runner, quarterback Matt Barkley, and the finest tandem of receivers in the nation in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
But if USC's two-headed running back monster Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd are also getting off, the chore becomes impossible.
A stout running attack for the Trojans turns the offense into a video game nightmare for those who have to play them.
That's one way to live up to the hype.
No. 5: Matt Barkley Just Needs to Be Matt Barkley
Since Matt Barkley arrived at USC to take the starting quarterback job in 2009, he has improved every year.
That improvement culminated in a 2011 season where he passed for 3,528 yards (69.1 comp. pct.) along with 39 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.
If the trend of annual improvement holds true, one can only imagine the numbers he will put up in 2012.
On an offense that promises to be one for the ages, Matt Barkley needs only to continue what he has always done at USC for the Trojans to live up to the high hopes of 2012.
No. 4: Remove the Only Question Mark by Playing Solid Defense
Turn on the television and you will find college football pundits saying the same thing:
"The Trojans only question mark will be their defense."
Those same purveyors of all things college football will then go on to specify USC's weak link, the defensive line.
To be fair, they have a point. The Trojans defensive line, after going through an almost complete makeover, is largely untested and woefully thin.
But if the defense in general, and the line in particular, can be effective, USC will have answered that question emphatically.
And the Trojans will live up to that AP preseason No.1 ranking.
No. 3: Put Away Opponents Early
In college football, there are few things more impressive than when a team steps on their opponents necks early and cruises to an easy victory.
When those who follow the sport turn on their televisions and see that the Trojans are up 28-3 at halftime, they will take notice that USC is simply better than the unfortunate team they are playing that day.
The longer the game goes without the men of Troy displaying their dominance, the more doubt will creep into people's minds as to how good the cardinal and gold really is.
Because of this, it will be important for USC to dominate early and coast to easy wins.
No. 2: Win with Style
You have heard the saying that a win is a win, right?
That may be true when it comes to the bottom line, but if you are a high-profile program with major expectations heaped upon you, that old adage may not be acceptable.
For USC in 2012, just winning won't be enough, they must do it with style.
You know, a liberal dose of 80-yard bombs from Barkley to Woods or Lee...perhaps some long jaunts by McNeal and Redd, the kinds of plays that make Sportscenter on Saturday nights.
Three yards and a cloud of dust isn't befitting of a team of USC's stature.
They must win and look good doing it.
No. 1: You Say Margin of Victory No Longer Counts?
Okay, so we have ascertained that the Trojans should put away their opponents early and do it with style.
So far, so good.
But at the end of the game, the scoreboard had better reflect complete domination by the men of Troy.
In determining BCS bowl placement considerations, margin of victory is no longer a component.
But in the heart and minds of those doing the voting, how many points a squad wins by reflects the superiority of the team in question.
The Trojans must win their games big to justify the hype that surrounds the program.
Win decisively or face the questions of uncertainty that close games will certainly bring.
"Prep, not hype."
A simple phrase but one that only becomes meaningful when you consider the leadership on this 2012 version of the Men of Troy.
Led by Matt Barkley and safety T.J. McDonald, two seniors who have sacrificed for the team by coming back for their senior seasons, USC will not be sucked in by the expectations of those around them.
Instead, they will be motivated by the opportunity given to them this season that was not available the last two years when the Trojans were denied access to postseason play courtesy of the NCAA mandated sanctions related to the Reggie Bush fiasco.
With Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff firmly focused on the task before them, USC's maturity will guide them through the pitfalls that typically surround a program which so much is expected from.
Can the Trojans live up to the hype this year?
I wouldn't bet against them.
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