Let's not beat around the bush. Here's the big question on everyone's mind after watching the 2009 Rose Bowl: Is USC the best college football team in the country?
After the Pac-10 drove through the 2008-09 Bowl Season undefeated, just how weak are they? In my mind, there are a lot of people chewing on serif and sans serif lettering right now. It just doesn't get any clearer than that record: 5-0.
But, that's not the question I want to tackle here. I'm sure there will be nothing short of a thousand different opinions and arguments made on that topic over the next 10 days (and probably all the way up until the start of next season).
Instead, let's take a look at the other pressing questions facing USC (and college football, in some ways) its staff and its faithful fans at this point.
- Is USC the best college football team in the country? Okay, well, sorry, but it had to be the first question. :)
- How serious will the "Pete Carroll Entertaining Offer With XXX NFL Team" stories get this season? At some point, everyone chases the money. I'm a huge Pete Carroll fan, but I really think the NFL has nothing for him except for the money. He's shown that he's not all about the financial lure of the NFL, and hopefully he continues to show that another year by staying at USC (having said that, it's not like he doesn't make cayyyash heading up the men of Troy). He has the opportunity to be one of the games' most revered coaches of all time. It would do Mike Garrett well (for his own legacy) to lock Carroll down into a multi-year extension this off-season.
- Will Mark Sanchez return for his senior year? Can you imagine how devastating this offense would be with Sanchez back at the helm? An offensive line with a year more experience, a stable of running backs and wide receivers that really picked up speed as the season wore on...it's kinda scary actually. They could be better as a unit than the Leinart / Bush / L. White / Jarret offense, which was so feared.
- Equally as important, will Taylor Mays spend his autumn playing on Saturdays or Sundays? A depleted Trojan defense would greatly benefit by the anchoring of Mays in the Trojan secondary. They're losing their entire starting LB corp, and the defense all over will be filled with experience holes. Taylor Mays would have to be the leading Lott trophy candidate, pre-season All-American (again), potential top 10 pick in April 2010, etc. His decision to come back for his senior season might be a bigger deal than Sanchez's potential return.
- Which USC backup QB will step up and prove game ready, whether it's as a starter or as a backup to returning senior Mark Sanchez? Mustain led Arkansas to a very respectable 8-4 three years ago, and you have to think he's next to step in and call plays for the Trojans. He was up and down on the depth chart all spring and even to start this last season, but was steadily the first to relieve Sanchez the majority of the season. He's got my vote to be Sanchez's replacement when the time comes. Remember, there's also highly touted Aaron Corp and this year's No. 1 QB recruit, Matt Barkley.
- Can the Trojans win the Pac-10 title for an unprecedented eighth straight time? There will be more competition with improving teams in Arizona and Oregon, and you have to hope the same for the Washington schools and UCLA. But is there anyone to seriously contend for the title? The Trojans need to watch out for the Beavers again, and circle that game as one of their toughest challenges for 2009.
- With Sarkisian up in Seattle coaching the Washington Huskies, will the Trojans be able to continue offensive progress, or will they suffer in his absence? Sark's departure will be as tough for USC to deal with as Norm Chow's when he left for the Titans. Either way, USC has shown that they can deal with their staff moving up and moving out. It seems that USC is a breeding ground for big coaching gigs (still confused how Chow hasn't been offered a major program yet). Ed Ogeron at Ole Miss, Kiffin with the Raiders and now the Volunteers, Sark with the Raiders and now the UW Huskies, etc.
- Forget repeating as Pac-10 Champs, Rose Bowl Champs, or champs of anything; is the young defense of the Trojans going to be ready for Terrelle Pryor's 2009 coming-out party at Ohio State University to start the season? This should be a great concern for Nick Holt and their young defense. T. Pryor will be coming out with a chip on his shoulder, because he only really got the ball in the latter part of the third quarter against USC at the Coliseum this year. He's the kind of quarterback that traditionally gives Pete Carroll fits, and with any luck for USC, the brand new LBs are schooled through and through this spring and summer. He's going to come out and try to bounce USC in both schools' season opener.
What are your thoughts? Have any questions to add to the list? If you enjoyed the article, please jump into the discussion, adding your thoughts and comments.