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COLUMN: The hype train can officially get rolling

first_imgWe’re finally here. Let’s pat ourselves on the back and trade a few clichés about “surviving the offseason” or getting Christmas in September. Fans always cherish opening week, especially in a sport like football that makes us wait eight months between campaigns. Everyone loves a fresh start, and as the tired phrase goes, all teams believe it’s their year on Week One.The excitement that engulfed this campus after the Trojans’ Rose Bowl victory hasn’t subsided — if anything, the summer months built the hype up to a fever pitch. But as I re-watched USC’s 2016 season on repeat all year (the Pac-12 Network has been running all the games nonstop since January), I realized this fall doesn’t feel like a fresh start, per se. It feels more like an encore.That’s not a mentality Trojan fans are used to as of late. Most season openers in recent memory have presented the opportunity to turn over a new leaf at USC after a disappointing previous campaign. When was the last time an opening-day crowd filed into the Coliseum still riding the high of the year before — and expecting even more?This optimism stems largely from the return of redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold, the preseason Heisman favorite. He saved the Trojans’ 2016 season, and we are running out of superlatives to praise him. Having said that, this USC squad as a whole is chock-full of talent, with multiple national award contenders on both sides of the ball. Without significant contributions from players like junior cornerback Iman Marshall and junior linebacker Cameron Smith, the Trojans won’t go anywhere, no matter what Darnold does.Fortunately, Darnold and the rest of the team know this — despite the media’s single-minded obsession with the potential No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft. During Pac-12 Media Days in July, a throng of reporters gathered around Darnold, peppering him with questions about his game and about adjusting to the limelight. Someone asked if he had a secret weapon on offense.“You guys know about RoJo [junior running back Ronald Jones II], right?” Darnold laughed. “We’re looking to have a balanced attack this year … If we can run the ball, we’re going to have success throwing it.”Darnold’s mentality reflects USC’s greatest strength this year — because head coach Clay Helton loves to establish the ground game and Darnold relishes spreading the ball around, it’s difficult for opponents to key in on a specific Trojan threat. Jones was a 1,000-yard rusher last fall; redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe has emerged as a deadly threat in the red zone; junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett reeled in 56 receptions for 622 yards and caught seven touchdowns as a sophomore — including three scores against Penn State last January. To add another cliché, it has become about the team, not the players. It’s a far cry from just two years ago, when Cody Kessler force-fed JuJu Smith-Schuster 1,454 yards, with no other receiver on the team even reaching 500 receiving yards for the season (Adoree’ Jackson — a natural cornerback — had the second most on the team with 414).Of course, USC will undoubtedly miss NFL draftees Jackson and Smith-Schuster this season: The duo turned in three stalwart campaigns during a turbulent era of Trojan football program that saw leadership changes in both positions of head coach and athletic director. Despite the odds, they delivered an iconic Rose Bowl win to cap their college careers. But it’s time for the next generation to spur the program to even greater heights — the heights Jackson, Smith-Schuster and every other recruit dreams of when he signs with the Trojans.That climb begins this weekend, as Western Michigan visits the Coliseum to open the season. The Broncos enjoyed the best season in program history in 2016, but they have lost the services of former head coach P.J. Fleck, who jumped at the chance to coach in a Power Five conference and took the reins at Minnesota. Quarterback Zach Terrell, the school’s all-time leading passer, graduated, and wideout Corey Davis was drafted in the first round of the last NFL Draft. Unlike the Trojans, WMU has been forced into pushing the reset button.It’s a fortunate break for Helton’s squad. If the defending MAC champions still had their superstar trio, they would have almost certainly begun the year in the top 25, and USC would have had three consecutive games against ranked opposition to open the season. Not to say that the Broncos will be a cakewalk, but their weakened roster will be a relief to Trojan fans, considering most other Pac-12 teams square off against the likes of Rutgers and New Mexico State this week.However, unless the Trojans take a shocking loss, no questions will be answered on Saturday. If USC suffers an upset, the team’s lofty preseason dreams could very well go out the window on day one. And if Darnold and company trample the Broncos, it will just mean the first win of many needed over the course of the fall. As much optimism and excitement surrounds this program, there is an equal amount of paranoia. But that’s how you know your team is good — and that’s how you know football season is finally here.Ollie Jung is a senior studying print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, Jung Money, runs on Fridays.last_img read more

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Syracuse adds Buffalo to 2018-19 nonconference schedule

first_imgSyracuse men’s basketball added a matchup with Buffalo to its nonconference slate, SU Athletics announced in a release Thursday afternoon. The matchup will take place on Dec. 18, 2018.This will be the second straight year the Orange — which owns a 28-5 all-time series lead — plays the Bulls, with the last matchup coming on Dec. 19 of last year, an 81-74 SU victory.Buffalo had a much improved season in 2017-18, going 27-9. That included a Mid-American Conference championship and first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament of No. 4-seeded Arizona, 89-68.The matchup is the fifth game added to SU’s nonconference schedule. Here are the games that have been confirmed so far, per the SU release.Thursday, Nov. 15 — 2K Classic vs. Connecticut, Iowa or OregonFriday, Nov. 16 — 2K Classic vs. Connecticut, Iowa or OregonSaturday, Dec. 1 — vs. CornellSaturday, Dec. 15 — vs. Old DominionSaturday, Dec. 18 — vs. BuffaloAdvertisementThis is placeholder text Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on May 24, 2018 at 2:45 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcClearylast_img read more

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