As I woke up in Fort Awesome last Saturday, I knew that the menu wasn't looking too great for my weekend viewing wise. No real marquee games outside of Notre Dame/Michigan and I knew that prior commitments would have me gone during those hours, home in time to watch a compelling game though from the Pac-12.
As I sat at home, pondering why there had to be an international break in Europe to couple with a bye, the phone rang and I started up the Florida-Miami game. A game that felt funny to be played so early in the year and so early in the day. A rivalry that always took a back seat to when FSU played either, was looking great but there was something much more interesting on, something that was more pertinent on, UW's next opponent.
Hence the phone call, DefenderDawg was watching the Fighting Illini and Cincinnati battle and so we watched the next two hours, hanging up just one drive before the regurgitation causing hit on the Cincinnati QB. As we talked and watched, the tenor of our conversations had changed from previous years. After finally getting the first game under the belt, watching it enough that when I mention the count, people have mentioned that I need help, we had data on this team. We enjoyed the way Illinois ran their offense, but it just seemed... quaint.
I don't think it was a great exhibition to glean much hard information short of Cincinnati looked like they were coached by LTW in the first half. Illinois has the look of a young team with an experienced QB, inconsistent. The final wasn't indicative of how that game turned. Cincinnati scored to make it a one possession game when the officials overturned the call on a fumble on the 1/2 yard line. Illinois stays up two scores. Illinois drives, UC steals the ball, but overturned and not a fumble. Two close calls (I think he scored, or at least you couldn't say he didn't conclusively) and then the horrific injury and Cincy was done. The game, its a game of streaks.
Which leads me to the surprisingly enjoyable surprise. I'll get to my prediction on Illinois, not that anyone would care, in a moment. But, the University of Southern California. The Men of Troy. Fight On! I said earlier that it looked like Lionel was coaching Cincy in the 1st half? USC is ready to fire Daniel Tosh that roams the sidelines there. As I watched that second half unfold and USC run for 7, throw for 7, run for 7, throw for 7, special teams break down, I marveled at the fact its rare you get to watch a man work and watch him working to be fired. It made me smile to see Mike Leach's team bust that WR screen on 3rd down, because you knew they were going to score and that USC wasn't going to answer and as Kiffin had a stare that seemed to ask, "how is paying a student's rent worse than paying a 'scouting service' to get a kid to sign at your school, lie about it, and attempt to cover it up?" as another throw is errant from an underclassman as he looks for scholarship bodies to play offense. Kudos to Leach for surviving and winning that game, kudos to fate for giving the Cougars hope, kudos to kizmit for continuing to kick USC for hiring their coach, and kudos to College football for reminding me that it always has a surprise in store.
Oh the game. Simply put, until October, no one's 40th best player is as good as ours. Hyper-ball, basketball on grass, fast break, whatever you want to call it, it takes depth. Our depth on offense is better than Illinois on defense. Our defense practices faster than Illinois played (seemed about 22-25 seconds per play, a bit like Boise) and simply put, we have better athletes across the board. If we play and execute, take care of the football, this should be a two score win and waltz. This offense could also put up 4 turnovers on the road. Defenderdawg will be there and we haven't won with him on the road since the Apple Cup in 2009. But, 31-13, the nation takes a little more notice of the barking that's Sarks startin.