USC-UH likely to provide intrigue
By Ferd Lewis
The last time the University of Southern California football team practiced at Aloha Stadium its head coach, Pete Carroll, joked with reporters, soaked up some sun and playfully tossed a football around.
It was a heady time to be a Trojan and it wasn't just because USC was a 36-point favorite over Hawai'i for the 2005 season opener the next day.
The Trojans were hitting their peak under Carroll. They were coming off back-to-back national championships, had won 22 consecutive games (and would reach 34 before losing to Texas in the national title game). They had a returning Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart, and another on deck, Reggie Bush.
But when USC returns Sept. 2 — almost five years to the day — for the 2010 season opener it will be a Trojan program deeper in transition and sporting more question marks than we've glimpsed from it here before.
Thanks to Carroll's departure for the Seattle Seahawks, the Trojans will now be a team under scrutiny by more than just the NCAA.
Between the coaching change, some marquee player departures and coming off an uncharacteristic — for them — 9-4 season, the Trojans will arrive more as subjects of speculation than the objects of the awe they have been in the past.
Usually we've seen the Trojans at their punishing, point-a-minute best. Three of the last four times they've tangled with the Warriors, they have been en route to the Rose Bowl. Right now it is anybody's guess where the Trojans are headed post-Carroll or who will lead them. On that score, may we suggest Norm Chow, June Jones or Chris Petersen?
No matter who it might be, you can bet that while ESPN has yet to say which WAC games it will carry on cable, it will undoubtedly snap up a Thursday evening USC-UH meeting.
For sure it shapes up as the most intriguing of the Trojans' five visits here. Not that there has been all that much drama associated with the series on the field. Except for 1978, when UH trailed a Charles White-led USC just 9-5 into the fourth quarter of a 21-5 loss to the eventual national champions, the rest of the meetings have been blowouts, averaging 54-10.
On a UH schedule where the other non-conference home dates are with Charleston Southern and Nevada-Las Vegas, and the WAC portion is minus Boise State and Fresno State, the Warriors' season opener will be their must-see event. If there is to be a sellout for the first time since the Sugar Bowl season of 2007, this will be it.
While the forthcoming change is ominous for the Trojans, it figures to be good for business for the Warriors.