Often games involving historic programs like USC and Alabama are accompanied by a giant hype train. This season, that hasn’t really been the case.

In large part, it is due to the overwhelming opening slate this season. Maybe more so than any time in recent memory, teams are beginning the season against powerful opponents. Typically, teams use Week 1 as a tuneup, scheduling easy nonconference opponents. However, this season teams are swinging straight out of the gates.

ACC-SEC matchups are getting most of the attention. Auburn hosts last season’s runner-up Clemson. Florida State faces Ole Miss in Orlando, essentially a home game without being a true home game. Georgia is in a similar scenario, playing North Carolina at the Georgia Dome.

The latter two games are expected to be highly competitive and, while Clemson is a clear favorite, the fact that Auburn has home-field advantage makes the Clemson-Auburn game intriguing. Alabama is a double-digit favorite against USC, taking away some of the game’s allure that may have accompanied such a contest in the past. What are USC fans saying about Alabama? Do they believe their team will prevail?

Trash talk amongst the two fan bases has given this game a little more pizzazz. USC started rolling out T-shirts with the slogan “Roll Tears Roll.” A much less official and less tasteful T-shirt appeared from Alabama fans boasting about O.J. Howard’s performance against Clemson, while questioning former USC back O.J. Simpson, upsetting two fan bases with one shirt.

Not surprisingly, USC fans are using this game to tout the power of the Pac-12, this despite the fact that the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 were the conferences represented in last season’s College Football Playoff, while the Pac-12 was shut out. While college football experts may not be in total agreement, most do agree the top conferences entering the season are the SEC, ACC or Big Ten, depending on whom you ask.

As far as talk actually related to on-field activities, USC fans seem confident about two things and concerned about two things.


  1. USC fans’ greatest concern is at the quarterback position. Starter Max Browne only played in three games last season, all of them while serving in backup duty. So, it is only natural to be concerned. USC fans should be comforted to know Alabama fans are even more fear-stricken by the uncertainty at the quarterback position. Cooper Bateman made one start at quarterback. Even if Alabama elects to go with the experienced choice, the experience isn’t overwhelming. USC fans are concerned about Browne because not only will this be his first start, but he will also need to have a sterling performance in his first start if the Trojans are to beat the Crimson Tide.
  2. The other concern is the mismatch between Alabama’s offensive line and USC’s defensive line. If USC is bullied in the trenches, Alabama should be able to run the ball the whole game against the Trojans, control the game clock, score points and not force their quarterback to make difficult plays. If the speed of USC’s defense can match up well against Alabama’s physicality, they have a chance at the upset.

Areas of confidence:

  1. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a matchup problem for any team. He excels on deep routes, not only because of his speed but also because he often wins one-on-one jump balls. Alabama has a strong secondary with big, physical corners, but if USC can use Smith-Schuster’s speed, it could create big-play damage.
  2. USC fans believe they have a big advantage in the USC offensive line versus Alabama defensive line. While this seems to sell the Alabama defensive line short, Alabama fans should be aware that the USC offensive line is exceptionally strong. The unit is loaded with experience, and while this is his first season at USC, offensive line coach Neil Callaway has an outstanding reputation. Many Alabama fans will instantly recognize the name as Callaway played for Alabama and served as the team’s offensive line coach in 1997 before being elevated to offensive coordinator in 1998. The Trojans’ offensive line features one of the best offensive tackles in college football in Zach Banner and three additional all-conference level players. Therefore, it is easy to see USC fans’ confidence in this matchup.

All in all, USC fans are confident their team can pull off the upset, and the team is capable of doing so. Alabama is the favorite for a reason, but in college football, anything is possible.