“The Scoop and Score” is a column by Eli Kleinmann about college football.
Spring is here, and with that comes college football spring games. It is a time for fans to go watch their favorite program get ready for the fall season and experience college football during a time with little else to watch besides the NFL Draft. There is a lot of excitement as spring football arrives, and games are televised for fans to watch if they cannot attend in person.
But while there is plenty of coverage of the games each year, ultimately they have little bearing on the fall season and serve only one purpose: enjoyment for the fans.
Nothing drastically changes based on what happens in the spring game. The position battles that college football commentators intently focus on are not decided by the spring game, especially with some freshmen not having arrived on campus for spring ball. Nor is scheme a heavy emphasis because these games are on live television, meaning that everyone has access to the tape. No team is going to give away its best plays in an intersquad game; instead, teams roll out a vanilla playbook with basic schemes.
The purpose of these games is to put the players on the field in front of fans as they wait for football season to return. The game gives fans something to look forward to — especially during the COVID-19 era — and can give them a glimpse of who will be impact players when the season begins.
USC had its Spring Showcase on Saturday. The intersquad game between Cardinal and Gold at the Coliseum had fans in the stands for the first time in over a year. It was exciting for fans to be able to watch sports live and for the players to hear fans in person once again.
The game itself had some exciting plays, like the impressive touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone by freshman receiver Michael Jackson III with under a minute remaining and redshirt junior linebacker Spencer Gilbert’s interception that got a huge reaction from the fans that partially filled the Coliseum. There were also a number of other interceptions. But none of the positives or the negatives from Saturday’s showcase will significantly impact the team this fall.
The game did not provide USC with an answer to the offensive line problem or affect the depth chart in any meaningful way. That happens in practice, a little in the spring but mostly in fall camp before the season begins. Jackson’s exciting performance was not a one-time special; he has been playing well throughout practice this spring outside of the showcase. The coaches did not learn anything new from Jackson because of an impressive couple of catches in one afternoon.
The most notable moment was when redshirt senior backup quarterback Mo Hasan had to leave the game with an injury. It turns out he tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season.
Ultimately, a spring game can cost a team more than it can benefit one. In football there is always a risk of injury anytime players step on the field. This glorified scrimmage for the fans can put players’ health at risk, which is what happened to Hasan on Saturday.
The Spring Showcase’s purpose for USC, as well as every other program, is to give the fans a chance to root for their team.
Don’t confuse the lack of purpose of the spring game with the idea that it should be removed altogether. It is still an exciting time for fans and families of players to go watch the team play and to see players who normally do not see the field. The game provides a relaxed atmosphere for fans to enjoy spring football while getting excited for what is to come. However, that is all it is: an event for the fans.
What is valuable about spring football is not the game itself but the 15 practices that teams are allowed. Those practices provide valuable time for coaches to see players over an extended period of time. It lets players run through drills and work on fundamentals that will be important once the season returns in the fall. The spring game, on the other hand, is just a glorified scrimmage that is televised and covered by the college football media like an actual game.
The college football media need to stop treating the spring game like it will define a team’s season. It will do no such thing. In fact, the spring game will not even determine the depth chart come fall. The game is for the fans and the boosters who enjoy getting to watch their team get on the field after a three-month hiatus from college football.
Let’s enjoy the game for what it is — a glorified scrimmage for the fans — and accept it as that.
“The Scoop and Score” runs every other Thursday.