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Now, Not Last Year, Is the Time for the 2005 USC Comparisons

A team with a long history and tradition wins the national championship. It emerges the consensus favorite to win the title the next year, thanks in large part to returning nearly everyone, the Heisman winning included, on its potent offense. The defense is suffering heavy losses, but c'mon. The team is stacked with future NFL talent on that side of the ball and the head coach is renowned as a top defensive mind. He'll get things worked out. Don't worry about complacency either, as the head man is famous for being a great motivator too.

Yes, folks. Now is the proper time to drag out the 2005 USC comparisons.

I sacrificed quite a few pixels last off season trying to stop people from drawing parallels between those Trojans and the 2009 Florida Gators. It was wrong on two very important levels. First, UF was returning its entire defense. The '05 Trojans only returned four starters on that side of the ball. Second, the Gator offense was almost certainly going to be worse without its top two receivers from the previous year, especially since Percy Harvin was a key part of the run game too. The '05 Trojans had no such attrition on offense.

From a hype perspective, the shoe did fit. However from a football perspective, the analogy broke down upon close inspection.

Now it's not a perfect parallel from that USC team to this year's Alabama team, but it's a whole lot closer than it was to Florida of last year. The personalities of the head coaches couldn't be more different, and Alabama didn't lose its offensive coordinator. No one will confuse Greg McElroy for Matt Leinart either, and as good as Alabama's offense should be this fall, it has no shot of reaching the level that the '05 USC offense did at its peak.

The circumstances between the teams are very close though. That first paragraph up there could apply to either one of these squads. Nick Saban's reputation as a coach is now about as sterling as Pete Carroll's was back then. Everyone glossed over the defensive losses so much that few even remember them now. We all decided that USC could just reload on defense and all the players were replaceable in Carroll's scheme. The same is now true for folks when thinking about Alabama's defense. Of course it will be fine; it's Saban's players in Saban's scheme, and the offense will cover over any slippage. Just like it was Carroll's players in Carroll's scheme, and the offense would surely cover over any regressions back then.

For 12 games in 2005, the formula worked. The Trojan defense wasn't its normal, dominant self, but didn't fall off the map entirely. It only allowed 30+ points twice during the regular season and the offense bailed it out both times. It was a very good team, but it was undone in the end by Vince Young playing the game of his life. There certainly are worse ways to see your season of destiny fall apart, but it was ultimately the defense that failed that team.

I have no idea what will happen to Alabama this upcoming season. I'm not trying to predict that the Tide will run the table but be cut down by an ultimate alpha dog in the national title game. I'm just not sure that a Vince Young-caliber player is out there this season. There's certainly no law saying that history must repeat itself.

What I am trying to say is that, if anyone wanted to dredge up the ghost of the 2005 USC team, now's the right time. Not last summer, but now.