LOS ANGELES—In the heart of Hollywood just steps away from the walk of fame, the PAC-12 Conference took over Hollywood & Highland for the PAC-12 Media Day, on Thursday, July 14 and Friday, July 15. The mall was transformed into a football stadium; complete with an Astroturf field and a beautifully constructed set courtesy of the PAC-12 Network.
All eye’s were on Stanford Cardinal Heisman runner up Christian McCaffery, especially after the stunning performance in this year’s Rose Bowl. He looked bigger, stronger and older. That will spell bad news for the rest of the conference.
The first day USC and the new head Coach Clay Helton held court with the media from the PAC-12 Network. He is shedding the interim label from last year Helton looked comfortable discussing the Trojans prospects this year.
Coaches and players from all 12 teams participated in this year’s festivities. These included the water bottle toss which drew laughs and frivolity from all involved. Cal won this suddenly very important contest, as a light hearted camaraderie permeated the air.
Much like spring training, spring hopes eternal for all 12 teams at this point. Locally USC and UCLA will field strong teams with the bruins projected to win the south portion of the PAC-12 with USC picked second. Josh Rosen, the Freshman All American Quarterback for the Bruins was also the focal point of the event in spite of his absence.
Coach Mora announced that the defense was switching to a 4-3 scheme instead of the usual 3-4. In addition, the Bruins will only spend one week in the grueling heat of San Bernardino this year. UCLA and USC both open the season the tough road games against tough SEC opponents. UCLA will open their season against the always powerful Texas A&M Aggies at Texas, while the Trojans get to face number one and defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium in Texas on September 3rd.
Certainly no one can accuse the Trojans of a weak pre-season schedule this year. The Bruins seem like a better choice to pull of the upset, Alabama is almost unbeatable, but a Trojan’s victory would definitely put them back in the national picture. USC Coach Clay Helton said there was a different feeling in preparation for the mighty Crimson Tide.
On the other hand, Bruin’s Coach Mora Jokingly said that,”Why did I ever agree to a home and home with these guys?” He quickly added that the team needed to measure themselves against programs like the Aggies, and he felt confident that they would do a good job preparing. In an ironic twist, the Bruins will be facing off against former Offensive Coordinator, Noel Mazzone. He departed Westwood for the same position at College Station.
UCLA Offensive Lineman Conor McDermott was standing on the mini-field, when Canyon News asked his thoughts on facing his old coach. “It will be fun seeing Mazzone, I can’t wait,” McDermott said with a sinister grin. The Bruin’s will also be dancing the Texas two-step on September 3, when they open their 2016 season against Texas A&M, at 12:30 p.m.
The first decision that Coach Helton must make is naming the new Quarterback replacing the talented Cody Kessler. That decision and many more will be made in the upcoming months. The two most likely are Redshirt Junior Max Browne and Redshirt Sam Darnold. Good luck to all the local schools and what a great job PAC-12!