Just to be clear, I am not a high school sex education instructor from Sicily.
Whether the Italian Trojan graduated from Southern California, South Carolina, or South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, USC is worthy of their preseason No. 1 buzz.
USC fields the nation's premier wide receiver tandem of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, plus a breakout waiting to happen in running back Curtis McNeal.
Plus an underrated and mostly-intact defense led by T.J. McDonald (the other No. 7), a newfound balance of humility and arrogance under Lane Kiffin, and a kettle of pride bursting from the spout after two years of ineligibility.
So was there really any doubt in Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley returning for his senior campaign to finish business?
An impressive and motivated 10-2 program in 2011, USC will fight on for postseason vindication throughout the entire season, but that's only a summer evaluation. Will the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and visited stadiums be as friendly come game days? As a formerly employed wristbander at Gate 28, left hand please:
Game 1: September 1st vs. Hawaii
Kiffin's coaching debut was a 49-36 victory over the Rainbow Warriors...the Rainbow Warriors!
Aforementioned off-field circumstances, an undisciplined defensive performance, and a six-hour plane ride allowed the contest to be closer than it should have been, so anticipate a Week 1 downpour...or gust of wind.
USC wins 52-6
Game 2: September 8th vs. Syracuse (MetLife Stadium)
The last time USC Travelered to New York-Jersey was in 2000 for the Kickoff Classic at then-Giants Stadium against Penn State (insert snide joke or heated opinion here), in which they triumphed 29-5. It's bold of Los Angeles' unofficial NFL franchise to tackle the Big Apple media and residence of Eli Manning and Tim Tebow, especially when recalling the constant three-hour jetlag I endured over the last four years.
This game will be harder fought than you may think - about as blasphemous as the "mere" 38-17 result of this past season's encounter - as the Orange are 5-3 in this venue, but their 8-win 2010 has been long lost in the shuffle of conferences.
USC wins 39-18
Game 3: September 15th at Stanford
I vaguely remember being drunk on candy corn and angsty Kelly Clarkson ballads the night of USC's near triple-overtime upset of No. 6 Stanford. Of course, the Cardinal will have less Luck and Co. this time around.
I firmly believe that David Shaw's recruiting and coaching will keep Stanford relevant, but unfortunately it's too early in the season for Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes to seriously compete with Barkley. Pac-12 vengeance begins in Stanford Stadium.
USC wins 45-24
Game 4: September 22nd vs. California
The Golden Bears don't boast too legitimate of a threat in 2012 aside from Keenan Allen and Isi Sofele, but this is still a rivalry game and potential hiccup. Kiffin will not stand for a Pete Carroll-patented inexplicable loss to an inferior team.
USC wins 35-7
Game 5: October 4th at Utah
The Utes struggled with a 4-5 conference record in their inaugural Pac-12 season, but more poise and familiarity is expected as they attempt to return to their non-AQ prowess of recent memory. The Trojans, however, will be looking to make a mid major out of them by the end of the first half in order to avoid needing another blocked field goal. The continual development of USC's rebuilding offensive line facing the likes of Star Lotulelei will be key.
USC wins 31-12
Game 6: October 13th at Washington
Strictly end zone to end zone, the best quarterback showdown of the conference in 2012 should be Matt Barkley versus Keith Price. Even stud cornerback Nickell Robey will have to admit humble defeat on a few plays, but this shootout will surprisingly come down to the undervalued valiancy of USC's special teams.
It seems like only yesterday that Andre Heidari wasn't permitted to try extra points in favor of Kiffin's two-point conversion-heavy offense, but a late game-assuring field goal?!
USC wins 44-38
Game 7: October 20th vs. Colorado
The trap of this game is complacently treating it like a bye week, but if there's one date on the schedule where the Trojans can get away with it, it appears to be their meeting with Colorado.
USC wins 29-3
Game 8: October 27th at Arizona
The traps of this
game are studying prematurely for their midterm with Oregon the following weekend, coming off of a possibly half-hearted effort against the Buffaloes, and believing that the Wildcats will be as pedestrian as they were last season. Matt Scott and Rich Rodriguez's squad will flash both inconsistency and glimpses of exciting
capability in 2012, but feel free to add "unprecedented close call" to Barkley's arsenal of victories.
USC wins 27-20
Game 9: November 3rd vs. Oregon
This is the urgent cardinal circle on the calendar, and both teams will be undefeated in pursuit of a Rose Bowl berth or better. The Trojans clung to a 38-35 conquest despite surrendering 21 unasnwered points to conclude the game, and while USC is refocused after Arizona, Oregon is no quack on either side of the ball thanks to a crowded backfield and stout linebacking corp - and pay particular attention to the defensive end battle between Oregon's Dion Jordan and USC's Wes Horton.
The difference for this rematch is simply the fact that USC is home (at a Coliseum in which they now fully control), and the student section will arguably not be louder at any other point in the season. The Ducks will no longer be peaking.
USC wins 35-27
Game 10: November 10th vs. Arizona State
USC derives from the brutality of their schedule with a 9-0 mark, but they still have yet to avenge a 43-22 defeat at the mercy of the Sun Devils, who were supposed to follow it up with a Pac-12 South title but went 3-6 ever since. The Trojans appear to be galloping towards the BCS.
USC wins 42-7
Game 11: November 17th at UCLA
These guys were your South representatives in the Pac-12 Championship. These guys. Will the rumored improvements under Jim Mora Jr. be any more substantial than those of Rick Neuheisel, or will their field be stabbed in 30 seconds or less?
USC wins 51-0
Game 12: November 24th vs. Notre Dame
The Trojans have officially returned to nationwide immortality, right? Well, this level of confidence has proven to be detrimental before. The Fighting Irish are finally displaying some stability under Brian Kelly, and these Brave
student-athletes will crush the country's Disney hearts in thievery of the Jeweled Shillelagh.
There's no Reggie Bush to push Matt Leinart past the goal line or sell us a condominium, and I am forever banned from all class reunions and campus events, but we can't eat our Parkside pumpkin pie in one bite.
USC loses 34-31
Pac-12 Championship - vs. Oregon
Little time should be spent licking wounds, for if there was somehow any shortage of inspiration entering a postseason contest, the Trojans have been supplied in full. The adage is that it's exceedingly difficult to beat the same team twice in one season (see LSU), but this is the sole reason why Barkley came back to school in the first place (blah blah academics blah blah).
For the sake of our Hollywood writers along 34th St, I predict a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Xavier Grimble as the fourth quarter expires.
USC wins 42-38
Rose Bowl - vs. Michigan
Oklahoma may very well be the lone undefeated team in 2012 (albeit in a declining Big 12), and the crimson BCS computers would crown a 9-3 Alabama if found excusable, so an 11-1 USC feels spurned.
Nonetheless, a classic January matchup with a Big Ten school in Pasadena is incredibly overdue, and viewership (and our beloved sponsors) will be granted the luxurious treat of the nation's paramount pocket passer pinned against its most hyped dual threat in Denard Robinson. The Trojans certainly cannot complain too much about what their first season back from the dead had to offer.
USC wins 43-20; finishes 13-1 (10-0) and No. 2 in the AP poll
This is USC's 2012 outlook...for now. Yes, I already spot the Laguna Beach mob of torches blazing outside my Jersey Shore window.