Please don’t follow my example and get ahead of yourselves by thinking the Trojans have a shot at making the Final Four. This is the same team that lost three straight conference games this season and has struggled with inconsistency. They also needed a last-second shot just to beat the bubble-straddling Bruins at home. I would be surprised if USC kept up its current level of play in Vegas and shocked if they made real noise in the NCAA Tournament. It started with the best recruiting class in team history. The addition of five-star freshman forwards Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Mobley gave the Trojans young talent and depth to mix with senior forward Nick Rakocevic on the front line. Enfield also made the smart call of inserting graduate transfer guard Daniel Utomi into the starting lineup in place of sophomore guard Elijah Weaver, adding shooting to the starting lineup and giving the bench a capable ball handler. This is how programs improve: attract some recruits, display growth and competence, parlay that into more high-level players and repeat. If you do it enough, it becomes a snowball effect that carries forward and allows you to get the best incoming freshmen based on name brand alone. USC is far from becoming a basketball powerhouse, but there is the layout of a plan to get there through a lot of small steps. Enfield has put together a solid squad, and now the most important stretch in the history of USC men’s basketball starts in Vegas. The Trojans have a really good chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament already (ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently has the Trojans as a 10 seed), but they can establish themselves as a true threat with a strong showing in their conference tournament. If they can find a way to win the Pac-12 tournament, they will likely move up a few seeds. USC has made a lot of those strides so far. It must continue in Vegas if Andy Enfield wants to build something special. He was quote tweeting another post with a video of senior guard Jonah Mathews’ game-winning 3-pointer that gave the Trojans a bye in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament and likely secured the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2017. For this reason, the shot is likely as important to Enfield, the team’s head coach, as it is to Mathews. Due to the lack of elite teams, there has never been a better year to be a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament. Anyone can beat anyone this year — for reference, take Duke and Kentucky losing to Stephen F. Austin and Evansville, respectively. Most seasons, you can bet on three of the Final Four teams to be top-three seeds, but the decline in quality at the top of the bracket should lead to even wilder upsets and deeper Cinderella runs this season. The higher USC positions itself, the better its chances of pulling off a deep run. Former USC student and journalist extraordinaire Eric He captured the achievement of USC men’s basketball’s 54-52 win over UCLA Saturday at Galen Center best when he tweeted, “Probably the best moment of the Andy Enfield era.” But the fact that they have a chance to do so is what matters. Enfield has already continued his recruiting prowess by securing Evan Mobley, brother of Isaiah and the No. 1 recruit in the incoming class of 2024 according to 247Sports. If the Trojans can exceed expectations in both of their upcoming tournaments, they will have the chance to impress even more recruits, like Sierra Canyon’s Ziaire Williams, and entice them to don the cardinal and gold. It was an up-and-down road to get there, but Enfield has the chance to alleviate any concerns about his job security. More importantly, he has the chance to reach the pinnacle of his USC career and continue a promising trajectory for the program. Despite leading the Trojans to their winningest five-year stretch in program history, Enfield has inspired a fair amount of malaise in USC fans recently, albeit not as much as other coaches on campus. In just his third season after taking over a cellar-dweller, Enfield steered the Trojans to the tournament in 2016, and he oversaw the Trojans’ best tournament effort in a decade in 2017. However, after USC became the highest-ranked major conference team ever to miss the Big Dance in 2018 and posted a losing record despite a talented freshman class in 2019, the heat was on Enfield to deliver strong results this season. Aidan Berg is a junior writing about sports. He is also a features editor for the Daily Trojan. His column, “Berg is the Word,” runs every other Monday.
WEEK 14 NON-PPR RANKINGS:Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | KickerNFL Week 14 weather updatesRavens @ Bills. This figures to be the windiest game of the week — and likely the biggest weather worry. Temperatures will be around 40 degrees, but a 15-20-mph sustained wind with gusts over 30 mph will push “feels-like” temps closer to 30 degrees. The wind really is the primary concern and could be an issue for kicks and longer throws. Still, we are talking about a pair of athletic, mobile, and strong-armed quarterbacks, so even with an expected eight-percent decrease to passing and scoring, I wouldn’t call this a “stay away” game (stats courtesy of WeatherEdge).Bengals @ Browns. This will be another breezy game, but maybe just a tick less windy than in Buffalo. I’d expect sustained winds around 15 mph with gusts around 25 mph. That will have a slight impact to passing/kicking.Redskins @ Packers. It’s going to be cold, but not overly frigid or unusual for Green Bay standards. There’s also a chance for showers/drizzle and some occasionally gusty winds. None of the individual factors are enough to recommend fading this game. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad enough to worry about. Week 14’s NFL weather forecast has a few worrisome spots, and with the fantasy playoffs underway, fantasy football owners can’t afford to botch any start ’em, sit ’em decisions because of weather. The Ravens-Bills and Giants-Eagles are the most worrisome spots because of potentially cold, wind, and rainy conditions, but will any be bad enough to cause you to sit normally reliable players. Before we break down the Week 14 forecast, here’s a reminder that if you have any questions about sports weather or how weather could impact play (and, potentially, your fantasy, DFS, and gambling decisions), don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @KevinRothWx or check our hourly NFL weather forecasts on RotoGrinders. To take your game to the next level, subscribe to RotoGrinders’ exclusive WeatherEdge tool and see how different weather conditions have impacted historical scoring. Giants @ Eagles. There’s nothing like watching two bad teams play in bad weather on Monday Night Football. We’re still a few days out here (and I’d recommend checking Twitter before kickoff — @KevinRothWx), but this games presents the best chance of seeing heavy rain this week. With winds aro und 15 mph, it’s a bump down for passing elements and a slight bump up to RBs.WEEK 14 DFS LINEUPS:DK Cash | DK GPP | FD Cash | FD GPP | Y! Cash | Y! GPPAs always, all forecasts are subject to change prior to kickoff. You can follow me on Twitter (@KevinRothWx), check out the hourly automated NFL weather forecasts on RotoGrinders, or take a look at WeatherEdge for updates. We’ve also added automated College Football Weather for those NCAA football fans looking for a little weather insight.
MORE: Breaking down Alabama’s Citrus Bowl victoryHere are the five biggest questions for Alabama this offseason:Will Tua Tagovailoa stay?That is the biggest domino for Alabama this offseason. Tagovailoa is recovering from hip surgery and will make his decision on Jan. 6.If Tagovailoa returns, then the potential rewards are obvious: He has piled up 7,442 passing yards, 87 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions while compiling a 22-2 record as a starter. Provided his rehab works out, he would be ready for one last ride with the Crimson Tide if he spurns the NFL draft.If Tagovailoa leaves, then Jones likely would be the starter; but former four-star recruits Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson, along with incoming freshman Bryce Young, would be in the conversation to take over. Saban knows how to manage quarterback controversies, but this would be the most wide-open battle since freshman Jalen Hurts took over the starting job in the 2016 opener vs. USC.Who else goes to NFL draft?The Crimson Tide received a lift when linebacker Dylan Moses, a Sporting News preseason All-American who missed this season with a knee injury, announced he would return to school for his senior season.Let’s say Tagovailoa stays. Would that be enough to persuade any combination of receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith to return? What about running back Najee Harris? This is the class that rose to stardom on the spot in the 2018 College Football Playoff championship game against Georgia. Would they want to come back and attempt to finish on top? Offensive linemen Alex Leatherwood and safety Xavier McKinney also have decisions to make.Alabama has been able to withstand that roster attrition better than anybody else under Saban. This draft class, however, has the potential to be large if everyone goes.MORE: Alabama tacks on final, unnecessary touchdown vs. MichiganWill Saban shuffle coaching staff?Can Saban keep this coaching staff together — and does he want to?The offense thrived under Steve Sarkisian and made the necessary adjustments after Tagovailoa’s injury. Alabama stayed on pace in scoring offense and total offense with the other Playoff contenders. Unless Sarkisian entertains a head-coaching job, which seems unlikely, he should be back. That should mean more of the same on offense.Defensive coordinator Pete Golding is a little more intriguing. Alabama allowed an average of 47 points in losses to LSU and Auburn, and ranked outside the top 10 in scoring defense and total defense. Those aren’t numbers according to standard, and it was clear throughout most of the season that the Crimson Tide did not have a Playoff-caliber defense.Still, Alabama fielded one of its youngest defenses ever of Saban’s tenure, due to injuries to several key contributors. And, given the drama around last year’s mass exodus on the coaching staff, some continuity wouldn’t hurt.Can Saban avoid three-year title drought?Saban will turn 69 on Halloween, and he faces the usual round of retirement speculation as he enters another that 14th season with the program. The Citrus Bowl win marked nine straight seasons with at least 11 wins under Saban, but there is a pressure point heading into 2020. Since Saban arrived in 2007, the Crimson Tide haven’t had three consecutive seasons without a national championship.That is an absurd standard, but it’s one Saban has been able to meet with “The Process.” Critics are going to point to cracks in the dynasty, given the high-profile losses to Clemson, LSU and Auburn the last two seasons. Next year’s team can use the motivation of watching either LSU or Clemson win the national championship, and there will be enough talent to win a national title no matter who comes back.Saban will have more than enough to work with, on and off the field. No. 9 Alabama beat No. 17 Michigan 35-16 on Wednesday to cap the 2019 season with an 11-2 record. The Crimson Tide responded well to missing the College Football Playoff for the first time, but there are even more questions heading into Nick Saban’s 14th season with the Crimson Tide.Those questions range from the Crimson Tide’s 2020 schedule, which players return for their senior season or leave for the NFL draft and what the coaching staff looks like heading into the next decade. How will Alabama handle tough schedule?Alabama should face less criticism for its schedule next season, given a neutral-site opener against USC and a September blockbuster with Georgia. Alabama will travel to LSU as well, making for a tough schedule in the Tide’s bid at a national championship.Here’s a look at Alabama’s full 2020 schedule:Alabama 2020 football scheduleDateOpponentSept. 5vs. USC (Arlington, Texas)Sept. 12vs. Georgia StateSept. 19vs. GeorgiaSept. 26vs. Kent StateOct. 3at Ole MissOct. 10at ArkansasOct. 17vs. Mississippi StateOct. 24at TennesseeOct. 31OffNov. 7at LSUNov. 14vs. UT-MartinNov. 21vs. Texas A&MNov. 28vs. AuburnThe good news is Georgia, Texas A&M and Auburn all come to Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the season likely hinges on that Nov. 7 showdown in Tiger Stadium. In that regard, nothing has changed. Saban will be on the sideline for that one. It’s just a matter of who is coming with him for 2020.