Know Your Opponent: USC Trojans

16 October 2010: Four body painted USC student fans during an NCAA football game between the California Golden Bears and the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA.

Welcome back to Know Your Opponent, where WFNY dons the Kevlar-reinforced tights and utility belt of a dark knight detective and punches the evildoers of Buckeyes fans’ opponent ignorance square in the kisser, leaving their illiteracy villains tied up on the front steps of the local police precinct for collection by the knowledge authorities.

There’s nowhere else for motivated Ohio State football fans to get this kind of pure, unadulterated, whiz-bang informational action and adventure. WFNY has dedicated its life to ensuring no other children have to go through the pain and suffering it did in that dark alley, watching a Buckeyes football contest and wondering, “why is that man in a foam rubber varmint suit shooting t-shirts out of a cannon at overweight white people, and why do they love it?” This week, we take on the Trojans of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California!

This caper begins as they always do, with a hype video. The best of the bunch this week is “Never Doubt SC. USC HYPE VIDEO 2017-2018” from YouTube user “ANDREW TV HD,” who does not own any of the clips he used, FYI. It begins with a tried-and-true hype video trope, reliving past failures to show how far a team has come. In this case, its USC’s shitty start to 2016 when they went 1-3 before ending the season with a nine-game winning streak. I think USC will be OK.

FBS Stats: #8 in final CFP, stats per Sports Illustrated
Points per Game: 37th
Yards per Game: 17th
Points Allowed per Game: 123rd
Yards Allowed per Game: 160th

Record: 11-2, PAC-12 Champions
W Michigan, W 49-31
Stanford, W 42-24
Texas, W 27-24
@ Cal, W 30-20
@ Washington State, L 30-20
Oregon State, W 38-10
Utah, W 28-27
@ Notre Dame, L 49-14
@ Arizona State, W 48-17
Arizona, W 49-35
@ Colorado, W 38-24
UCLA, W 28-23
Stanford, W 31-28

Coach: Clay Helton

Helton played backup QB at both Auburn and Houston, transferring to the latter after his old man was hired as the head coach there. At least he didn’t start over a more worthy candidate just because his pops was the coach, like when my softball coach cost us numerous games during Wickliffe’s 1995 season by starting his son at second base over multiple better players. I’m definitely not still bitter about that. Helton graduated in 1994, then moved on to Duke as a graduate assistant. His career from there looks like:

2012​​USC​​Pass Game Coordinator/QBs
2013​​USC​​OC/QB/interim HC
2015​​USC​​OC/QB/interim HC/HC

Good lord man, that’s a lot of job title changes for one man at one school. Helton was the interim HC at USC twice, getting passed over for Steve Sarkisian in 2014, but got the official nod in 2016. It’s a good move for USC, still reeling in 2016 from the massive NCAA sanctions they received in 2010 due to hiring two completely unstable, egomaniac, and alcoholic head coaches in the interim, Lane Kiffen and Steve Sarkisian, respectively. Helton seems calm, stable and sober enough to get them through the next few years without too much negative press, which is the second most important performance measure for college head coaches, after recruiting.


Traveler is a horse ridden by a small old man dressed as a Trojan warrior, who appears at home games and other school events. Though described by the school as “pure white,” Travelers are actually grey horses whose hair has gone white from ceaselessly hearing the word “bro” bandied about willy-nilly by every male student at USC on their way to lacrosse practice. The school is currently on the ninth iteration of Traveler.

Traveler has only existed since 1961, when he replaced the previous mascot, a series of dogs known as “George Tirebiter,” named for the original’s penchant for chasing cars. Tirebiter seems like a more interesting mascot to me, having been kidnapped multiple times over his 20-year run by UCLA students, USC student politicians, and even once by a local paper. As for Traveler, the first man to ride him wore the actual costume Charlton Heston wore in Ben Hur, but it proved too heavy, so a lighter version was made.

Before the Coliseum stadium was renovated in the 1990s, it had an olympic-grade track that ran outside the football field, which gave Traveler an unfettered lane from which to circle the stadium, ginning up the crowd into an unfathomable mass of quivering madness. The renovations removed the track, so Traveler now requires a team of advance men to clear the way for his romps on the sidelines so he doesn’t run anyone over.

Legend has it Traveler was named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s horse, which of course has caused some controversy in 2017 California. However, it turns out that Lee’s horse’s name was spelled with a second L, and the first Traveler already had his name when the original rider purchased him in the 1960s, so USC is in the clear, for now. I don’t recommend looking any further into the Traveler name controversy, unless you really want to read about people who support likely child molesters in Senate races complaining about political correctness, which is a real problem and not at all made up so old people can feel better about alienating their grandkids by saying the same racist shit they always have.

Silly Traditions:

USC refers to itself as “Tailback U” for the high number of Heisman-winning running backs at the school, such as Marcus Allen, Reggie Bush, Mike Garrett, OJ Simpson, and Charles White. Forget for a second that Reggie Bush vacated his Heisman due to his being a paid professional the entire time he played at USC, leaving 2005 as the only year in the award’s history that has a blank.

The school reserves the number 55 for elite linebackers, awarding it to deserving players in a much ballyhooed ceremony. Players are not allowed to just pick the number, as is the case with every single other number. Past recipients include Junior Seau, Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne, and Chris Rivers. Did you notice that perennial commercial star and all-around most-annoying best friend Clay Matthews is not on this list?

The team’s fight song is Fight On!, which is also the team’s battle cry when faced with a daunting situation. It’s sometimes accompanied by the two-fingered “V” salute, which is supposedly a throwback to ancient Troy because the Trojans would cut off the index and middle fingers of soldiers they conquered, so the vanquished would be unable to wield a sword in battle ever again. That’s harsh, but better than being made a eunuch, or summary execution. I like this backstory, but Occam’s Razor tells me they just use the “V” salute because it looks cool and is easy to figure out.

Famous Alumni:

An absolute shitload of Hollywood types are USC alumni, which makes sense given its location. We’ll go through them, but being surprised by this list is like being surprised to meet someone with parents from the former Yugoslav republics at Euclid High School.

SNL alum and generational funnyman Will Ferrell attended USC. Draft dodger, reactionary fascist, and terrible actor John Wayne is an alum, though he attended under his mother’s name, Marion Morrison.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended USC, as did deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Morsi was the first elected president in Egypt’s history, but was overthrown by the military with U.S. support because of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Comedy producer extraordinaire Judd Apatow is an alum, the mind behind hits such as Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Superbad, Freaks and Geeks, Anchorman, and Trainwreck, among many others. Other entertainment heavy-hitter USC alumni include creaky-skeleton actor and director Clint Eastwood, Star Wars founder and destroyer George Lucas, Scandal show runner Shonda Rhimes, Threes Company closeted roommate John Ritter, X-Men movie franchise honcho and accused serial pedophile Bryan Singer, actor and director Forest Whitaker, director Robert Zemeckis, writer and director of massive 1980 hits like Red Dawn, Conan the Barbarian, and Apocalypse Now, John Milius, director Ron Howard, and the most recent Star Wars ruiner, writer and director Rian Johnson.

Famous astronaut and Ohio native Neil Armstrong is an alum, having earned his MS in aerospace engineering there in 1970.

Last, but not least, the brother of Cleveland’s own beloved Khloe Kardashian, Rob Kardashian, is an alum of the University of Southern California. Familiar for his extreme and troubling weight gain, Rob Kardashian is perhaps best known for his relationship with something called a Blac Chyna, and all the insane twists and turns that came with it.

Trojans Currently in the NFL: 44 Total

Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia
Javorius Allen, RB, Baltimore
Zach Banner, CB, Cleveland Browns​
Matt Barkley, QB, Arizona
Jurrell Casey, DT, Tennessee
Matt Cassel, QB, Tennessee
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston
Justin Davis, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Rhett Ellison, TE, New York Giants
George Farmer, RB, Seattle
Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota
Xavier Grimble, TE, Pittsburgh
Wes Horton, DE, Carolina
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Tennessee
Matt Kalil, OT, Carolina
Ryan Kalil, C, Carolina
Devon Kennard, LB, New York Giants
Cody Kessler, QB, Cleveland
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville
Tre Madden, RB, Seattle
Damien Mama, OL, New York Giants
Marcus Martin​, C, Cleveland
Clay Matthews, LB, Green Bay
T.J. McDonald​, S, Miami
Leon McQuay III, DB, Kansas City
Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona
Nick Perry, LB, Green Bay
Hayes Pullard III, LB, Los Angeles Chargers​
Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB, Los Angeles Rams
Frostee Rucker, DT, Arizona
Mark Sanchez, QB, Chicago
Kevon Seymour, CB, Carolina
Josh Shaw, CB, Cincinnati
Tyron Smith, OT, Dallas
Malcolm Smith, LB, San Francisco
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh
Randall Telfer, TE, Cleveland
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, Tampa Bay
Max Tuerk, C, Arizona
Chad Wheeler, OT, New York Giants​
Isaac Whitney, WR, Oakland
Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Shareece Wright, CB, Buffalo

Noteworthy Players:​

Sam Darnold, QB
Bubba Bolden, S
Marvell Tell III, S
Keyshawn “Pie” Young, WR
Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR
Davonte Nunnery, S
Aca’Cedric Ware, TB
Juliano Falanico, LB
Reid Budrovich, P
Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT
Erik Krommenhoek, TE

This is the first installment of KYO where I can recall a notable collegiate football player having his nickname listed on the team’s official website. With much ado, I introduce Buckeyes fandom to heralded USC wide receiver, Keyshawn “Pie” Young. Being named after a pastry is something I expect from an offensive lineman, not a wide receiver, but I’m sure there’s a compelling story there somewhere for a plucky young sportswriter to dig up for his voracious readers….you guys know anyone?


Here’s how I stand for the year:

Indiana: Predicted 42-24 Buckeyes, Actual 49-21
Oklahoma: Predicted 31-24 Buckeyes, Actual 31-16, Oklahoma
Army: Predicted 49-21 Buckeyes, Actual 38-7
UNLV: Predicted 54-14 Buckeyes, Actual 54-21
Rutgers: Predicted 58-14 Buckeyes, Actual 56-0
Maryland: Predicted 45-14 Buckeyes, Actual 62-14
Nebraska: Predicted 52-7 Buckeyes, Actual 56-14
Penn State: Predicted 24-21 Buckeyes, Actual 39-38
Iowa: Predicted 35-14 Buckeyes, Actual 54-21 Hawkeyes
Michigan State: Predicted 24-21 Buckeyes, Actual 48-3
Illinois: Predicted 54-10 Buckeyes, Actual 52-14
Michigan: Predicted 35-17 Buckeyes, Actual 31-20
Wisconsin: Predicted 28-21 Buckeyes, Actual 27-21

Folks, I was close on this one, but I’m not happy about it. I would have preferred that Wisconsin just played very well and matched up to the Buckeyes, instead of what we got which was turnovers gifting the Badgers 18 of their points. Yikes!

After how well Haskins played to close out Michigan and the JT Barrett knee surgery prior to the game, it was inevitable that once JT threw a pick-six Buckeyes fandom would be clamoring for him to be benched. For that reason I avoided Twitter during this game like a Michigan restaurant during roadkill season. Anyway, it was ugly, with Barrett both being a key component to the Buckeyes win as well as single-handedly keeping the Badgers in the game. I’m just glad its over. I’m going to miss JT, a truly legendary player for the program, but not the controversy swirling around him. Anti-JT fans may be happy to see him go, but as long as Urban Meyer is the coach, we’re going to see QB runs in obvious QB run situations. This is the price of having Meyer coach your favorite amateur football squad. Expect some QB runs in the Cotton Bowl!

As for this game, the legendary Ross Perot Oil Derrick Drinking Water Decontamination Process Cotton Bowl Classic, against the Trojans of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, for JT Barrett’s last time in Scarlet and Grey, I predict the Buckeyes get the win, 42-30. I think this contest of two high-powered offenses will be decided by defensive prowess, and the Buckeyes have the obvious edge there.

That’s it for this season, loyal readers! It’s been a wild ride, filled with too many ups and downs to count. KYO will be back next year to help you Buckeyes faithful fill in those deep knowledge gaps regarding Buckeyes opponents, so you’ll never again have to guess which truly terrible people attended college at a school whose football team happens to play Ohio State in a given season. Stay safe on New Years eve – puke and rally, call a Lyft, whatever you need to do to make it home to your loved ones. If you have any…you lucky bastards.