Real Evaluations Begin This Week

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Jed Williams

We got it all wrong.

In the seemingly endless weeks and months leading up to Virginia’s clash with vaunted Southern Cal – didn’t every day feel a bit like a Times Square New Year’s Eve countdown, with Pete Carroll and Joe McKnight replacing Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest? – so many of us (self included) misconstrued the USC ballyhoo. We started assigning expectations, elevating hopes, deducing meaning, and generally propping up this “showdown” into a much more bloated beast than it ever should have become. We made it into a referendum game on both the state of the program and the progress of a radically rebuilt team. Why? Because that’s what we do.

What we should have done was sit back and enjoy the sizzle-and-spice ticker-tape parade that is USC Football, the best professional college football brand anywhere in the land … and postpone any conclusions – or early assumptions – another seven days. Why didn’t we just enjoy the ride, even if that ride streamrolled right over the beloveds?

Instead, after a whopping 52-7 walloping at the hands of Tommy Trojan, Cavalier Nation was left to hollowly scrounge for scraps of meaning. So much embedded in 60 minutes, so little return. When I was asked the stock postgame questions like “so, do you take any moral victories out of this?” or “where do the Hoos go from here?”, I found myself thinking: “I got nothing.”

Here’s what I definitively know at this early stage: USC is a global wrecking machine. Maybe they should have been scrimmaging the Oakland Raiders over the weekend instead of gorging on fried chicken at Michie Tavern and Wahoos at Scott Stadium. Other than that, there’s not too much more that can be accurately gleaned from such a massive mauling. Can the Cavaliers be this bad for the next 11 weeks? Bad enough to live up to their second-class citizen, 5th-place Coastal Division prediction? Bad enough to make Phil Steele’s dreams come true and stumble at Duke? Possibly, but unlikely.

Certainly there’s ample reason for concern, but not for full-fledged panic. Let the Clemson and N.C. State natives freak out (how many “for sale” signs were planted