1. Give your biggest takeaway from the Trojans dominating win over Notre Dame.
Garry Paskwietz: To me it was the way the team responded to what happened the previous week against UCLA. There’s no doubt the loss to the Bruins had a different feel to it so for the Trojans to turn around and put together their most complete game of the season against their other traditional rival was a big statement for Steve Sarkisian and his program. The Irish may not have been at their best but the Trojans will make no apologies based on the realities of their own roster numbers either.
Johnny Curren: I was impressed with the way that USC finally put together a complete game. This team had developed a bad habit of starting out hot, but never finishing strong, and as everyone saw, it came back to bite them on a number of occasions. Hopefully they’ve put that trend behind them with their latest performance, and they’re able to put together another solid four quarters of play in the bowl game so they have that momentum going into 2015.
Greg Katz: My biggest takeaway from the win is that the Trojans didn’t roll over after their decisive loss to UCLA. It was a credit to the Trojans and the coaching staff that they both got off the mat and gave Notre Dame one its most humiliating losses in the storied series. Yes, it wasn’t a vintage Notre Dame team that came to the Coliseum, but given the Trojans' circumstances it showed the heart of Steve Sarkisian’s team and gave pause to what might have been if they had played with the same passion and focus the entire season. It appeared that the coaching staff made some changes after the UCLA loss, and it seemed to resonate with the team against the Irish.
2. The All-Pac-12 teams were released this week, including five Trojans on the first team. Give your thoughts on any surprises or omissions.
GP: I thought each one of the five Trojans on the first team list was deserving, and the selection of Max Tuerk at center particularly stood out. The first-year transition to the center spot was not always smooth with snapping issues and there were many USC fans who wanted to move Max to left tackle when Chad Wheeler went down but in the end the conferences coaches felt he was better than anybody else at the position. That speaks volumes. It was a little surprising to see Cody Kessler and Hayes Pullard as honorable mentions, I don’t know specifically who they should be move ahead of, it’s just that both seem worthy of higher recognition.
JC: For the most part I agree with the selections. I’m a little surprised that USC had five first-teamers, but when you look at each player, I believe they were all deserving. There is a ton of talent in the Pac-12 this year, so this couldn’t have been easy. It’s a shame that Cody Kessler didn’t at least earn second-team honors with the numbers that he put up, but I guess that’s life in the Pac-12, where there are just so many fantastic passers. I also thought it was interesting that Royce Freeman got Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. Arizona freshman Nick Wilson rushed for more yards despite playing in one less game than Freeman, and Wilson’s teammate, Anu Solomon, did a pretty nice job at quarterback too.
GK: There were really no surprises in the naming of All-Pac-12 teams. The names of Allen, Agholor, Tuerk, Williams, and Cravens were not totally unexpected; however, it was surprising to me that there were no Trojans named to the second team offense or defense with the exception of true freshman JuJu Smith, who was named to the athlete/special teams category. The omission of senior linebacker Hayes Pullard (honorable mention) was disappointing, given his importance to the Trojans defense.
3. Many bowl projections have USC headed to the Holiday Bowl against a Big Ten opponent. Who would be your wish list opponent from that conference?
GP: I like the thought of the Trojans and the Wisconsin Badgers. It could be a very physical match-up if the Trojans break out the same game plan and style they used against Notre Dame, because you know Wisconsin would come to town looking to run the ball.
JC: Nebraska. Even with the recent dismissal of Bo Pelini and the turmoil going on in Lincoln, USC-Nebraska is still the matchup I’d want to see down in San Diego. You’d have two traditional powers going at it, and I’d like to see how the Trojans' defense does against Ameer Abdullah and the Huskers’ potent rushing attack. After their lackluster outing against Boston College’s prolific run-based offense, this could be a chance at redemption
GK: The Holiday Bowl would be a great destination for the Trojans and the cardinal and gold faithful. Of the opponents being mentioned, I can’t think of a better adversary on a number of levels than Wisconsin. Given the Badgers incredible fan following and powerful running attack - featuring Heisman Trophy running back candidate and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Melvin Gordon. It would add some real sizzle to a running back matchup between Gordon and the Trojans’ All-Pac-12 tailback Buck Allen. And, of course, the game would conjure up memories of the legendary 1963 Rose Bowl classic between the two teams, which gave John McKay his first national title. The Trojans and the Badgers, what’s not to like?
4. What is your prediction for the Pac-12 title game between Oregon and Arizona?
GP: I think the old adage that it’s hard to beat the same team twice in one season will really come into play in this game. Arizona is playing with a lot of confidence, including an impressive array of young skill players that play well beyond their years. But as much as I like the Wildcats’ chances, I just get the sense that Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is going to be too much for them to handle.
JC: I think that Oregon, which will come into this game healthier than when these two teams met up earlier this season, gets revenge in this one and takes down the Wildcats, 38-24.
GK: I’ll take Oregon in a potential blowout. Arizona will come out strong and confident after two consecutive wins over the Ducks. The feeling here, however, is that Oregon will be on a mission and the law of averages will catch up with Arizona. The difference will be the two quarterbacks. Mariota will show why he is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Oregon’s offensive line has improved since the last Ducks loss to the Wildcats, and Arizona’s young, redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon hasn’t been in this type of pressure situation like Mariota and his teammates.