Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nothing Needs to be Said

Here are some thoughts on the Bruins:

  • The Bruin offense has struggled most of the year (9th in the conference in scoring offense and total offense)

  • Injuries have really hurt UCLA this year and none more so than RB Khalil Bell. Since Bell was hurt in the 1st quarter of the WSU game, UCLA has averaged only 269 yds and 17.5 points (over 4 games)

  • The Bruins have been more successful when Pat Cowan has been healthy enough to play at quarterback, averaging 27 points and 366 yards per game (Washington, WSU, Cal, Arizona)

  • It will be very difficult for the Bruins to run consistently on the Trojans. Bruins will try and make some plays in the passing game and likely attempt at least 1 trick play. Bruins have been held under 3 yards a carry 4 times this year (BYU, Utah, Oregon St and ND) and under 4 yards a carry another 4 times (WSU, AZ, ASU and Oregon)

  • I expect Cowan to start this game and give the Bruins a bit of a spark. As mentioned above, UCLA just plays better with Cowan at the helm

  • Cowan or no Cowan, UCLA will struggle to run the ball and protect the passer. I like the match up of the USC DL vs UCLA OL

  • Last year the Trojans completely shut down the Bruins and still lost...the big question is what can the USC offense do this year?

  • The UCLA defense is very formidable again this year. They run a very aggressive scheme with tons of blitzing

  • It continues to work for the Bruins as they are ranked 3rd in the conference in run defense, 2nd in tackles for loss and 4th in scoring defense

  • The Bruins get to the quarterback very well and use blitzing linebackers to create negative plays in the running game. However, UCLA has given up its share of big plays this year...both on the ground and through the air

  • So why will this year be different for the Trojan offense? Here are the Top 10 reasons to be optimistic:
  1. USC can game plan against what the Bruins did last year (which by the way is very similar to what Stanford did this year)
  2. Bruins had 2 weeks to prepare last year, 1 week this year (Trojans have 9 days this year vs 1 week last year)
  3. Last year the Trojans were coming off 3 huge back to back to back victories over Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame. 2 games in last 21 days this year
  4. Healthy and productive fullback this year in Havilli vs no fullback last year. Big impact on the running (and short passing) game
  5. Depleted running backs last year (only true frosh Gable healthy). This year the Trojans have CW, McKnight and Stafon
  6. Fred Davis was not a part of the offense last year due to Jarrett and Smith...this year he is the leading receiver. A prominent TE makes it more difficult for safeties and linebackers to run blitz without penalty
  7. Last year the Bruins had 2 dominant defensive ends (Hickman and Davis) and 2 outstanding defensive tackles (Brown and Harwell). This year Hickman is gone and Harwell is injured. Big difference
  8. No game breaking speed last year for the Trojans. Rojo and McKnight have the ability to make aggressive defenses pay this year
  9. Booty had a bad ankle last year which limited his mobility. This year he is healthy...expect some roll outs
  10. Coliseum. Bruins are a much different team on the road, particularly defensively. At home they are allowing 19pts per game and on the road they are allowing 27 pts per game

  • I think USC will use the running backs, fullback and tight end in the passing game (or at least as decoys) to keep the UCLA linebackers and safeties honest. If USC is successful at this (thus slowing down the blitz)...the play book can open up

  • UCLA will counter by playing tight man to man (including putting SS Horton on Fred Davis). I like the match up of our OL run blocking against the Bruins...particularly running right at them. USC will also use a reverse to Rojo to slow down the pursuit

  • Tons of play action from Booty...much like ASU game. I am hopeful the Trojans can make some big plays

  • This is a huge game for Booty and Sark...if the offense clicks, the Trojans roll

  • Special teams can be a factor in this game...on both sides. UCLA has returned 3 kickoffs for TDs this year and Austin is a dangerous punt returner. USC will counter with Rojo and McKnight

  • Turnovers are always critical, particularly in rivalry games

Another huge game with the Bruins with the Rose Bowl hanging in the balance. Can't wait until Saturday. See you at the Coliseum.

Fight On!

Friday, November 09, 2007


Well the match up with the Cal Bears is finally here although it is not the matchup everyone was anticipating early in the season. As opposed to two highly ranked teams competing for a BCS Championship berth, there are two teams with 5 Pac 10 losses between them. The national media may no longer be interested in this game, but the Trojans have a ton to play for.

If USC can continue to win games, the Trojans could still tie for the Pac 10 championship and potentially receive an at large BCS bid. Cal is a very talented team that has hit a rough patch, but the Bears are a significantly better team at home.

Thoughts on USC this Week

  • The Trojan defense is playing as well as any time during the Pete Carroll era. Cal is very explosive, so a great defensive effort is critical

  • Cal has only given up 8 sacks this year. Part of that is due to a solid OL, but a larger part is due to opposing teams reluctance to blitz and leave the talented trio of Cal wide receivers in the secondary...I think USC will scheme to limit big play opportunities from the Cal WR

  • Cal has really struggled offensively since QB Nate Longshore injured his ankle late in the Oregon game. Longshore's mobility has really suffered and he appears hesitant to step into throws. Back up Kevin Riley could see the field and he is a mobile player with a lot of upside

  • Cal has scored 28, 21, 20 and 20 points in their last 4 games vs 45, 34, 42, 45 and 31 in their first 5 games

  • One of the reasons Cal has struggled is that the Bears have turned the ball over 12 times in their last 4 games vs only 4 times in their first 5 games

  • Another reason for the reduced output is a significant decline in the running game. In the first 5 games, Cal averaged 200 yds per game and 5.7 yds per carry. In the last 4 games, Cal averaged 125 yds per game and 3.7 yds per carry

  • Look for USC to come out and shut down the run and force Longshore to make the reads against zone coverage. Given Longshore's lack of mobility, Pete will definitely mix in some blitzes, but they will probably be of the zone blitz or MLB blitz variety

  • I expect USC to "bracket" Desean Jackson with a LB underneath and a safety over the top. Cal will likely counter with some plays to their talented tight end (wearing #19 in honor of Mario Danelo)

  • I would not be surprised to see USC put pressure on Longshore with the front 4. In obvious passing situations, the Trojans have 4 legitimate pass rushers in the game (Sed, Lojack, Kyle Moore and Everson Griffin). If the front four gets pressure, USC should be in good shape

  • On the other side of the ball, Cal has struggled to consistently stop the run and rush the passer

  • Cal is 5th in the conference against the run; 6th against the pass; 6th in scoring defense and last in sacks

  • I think the Trojans are really going to try and establish the running game this week. CW had his best game last week and I think the running game my break out. Stafon is getting healthy and the OL is in good shape with the exception of Baker. Maybe even a run out of the shotgun

  • Given Cal's lack of pass russ and Booty's historical issues with pressure, it would not be surprising to see Cal blitz often. We finally saw a very successful middle screen last week (TD to CW)...hopefully USC will be ready to counter the blitz

  • Patrick Turner has made some big catches the last few weeks...with his size, he is a difficult player to defend. This along with the emergence of Vidal really makes it difficult to bracket Fred Davis....maybe this is the week the offense gels

Berkeley is a tough place to win...the Trojans exercised some demons there in 2005, but the Bears will be ready tomorrow. With rain in the forecast, it will be critical to get off to a good start and take the crowd out of the game. The Trojans can build some real momentum with a win tomorrow...let's hope USC can make it happen. See you tomorrow in Berkeley.

Fight On!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tough Loss in Eugene, Here come the Beavs

Tough and frustrating loss last week to the Ducks. Congrats to the Ducks for a great win. Penalties and turnovers continue to really hurt the Trojans. There is an old saying that I think holds true for USC football "you are never as good as you think when you win and never as bad as you think when you loose"

If you think back to 2003-2005 when USC was rolling, the Trojans were only a couple of key plays away from losing some games (2004 Stanford, 2004 Oregon St, 2005 ASU, 2005 ND) and only a few plays away from going 52-0 from 2003-2006. Well, in 2006 and 2007 those plays have not been going the Trojans' way and the Oregon game is a perfect example. If one were to change 2-3 plays in that game (convert 4th and 1, hold on McKnight TD and Havili fumble), SC could have won that game and been back in the national title hunt. I guess what I am saying is that the line between winning and losing is very thin and the Trojans are making enough mistakes to make it even thinner. I think the coaches and players (and fans) are learning some great lessons about what it takes to stay on is not easy.

Rather than dwell on "shoulda, coulda, woulda" and the negatives in the Oregon game, I would like to highlight a few positives that stood out

  1. The Trojan WRs played an outstanding game...their best game of the year by far. Turner appears to be finally healthy from his injury and showed he can be an impact player. For the second week in a row Vidal really stepped up. If USC continues to get good WR play, then the Trojan offense may begin to be dangerous again

  2. McKnight proved again he is a big time play maker. When given enough opportunities, Joe seems to make at least one big play. This is something the struggling USC offense desperately needs. Joe is poised for huge finish to the season

  3. The USC defense played outstanding against arguably the best offense in CFB. If you would have told me before the game that Oregon would score 24 points and gain 340 yards, I would have been quite confident SC would win the game. While the lack of turnovers forced is puzzling (and frustrating), the Trojan defense continues to shut teams down. With defense like this, USC gives itself an opportunity to win every matter who they play

  4. Sedrick Ellis is just a dominant force. The fact that officials do not call holding on almost every play is a joke. I encourage you to go back and watch games this year on your Tivo/DVR and just focus on #49 and see what he does. Totally off topic, but did you know that for 4 YEARS IN A ROW, USC opponents have been the LEAST PENALIZED team in the PAC 10. Hard to believe, but when you watch Sed Ellis get held, I can start to understand

On to the Beavers....

USC Offense vs OSU Defense

  • This is the key match up in this game. The Beavers come to the Coliseum with a highly touted defense, including the NATION'S LEADING RUSH DEFENSE...can the struggling Trojan offense have a break out week?

  • When you really analyze the rush defense of the Beavers, it becomes clear that the reason they rank #1 is because of lost yards on sacks, not because of actually stopping the ball carrier

  • With credit to TrojanHoya who did the work for this analysis, when you back out the sacks, ball carriers are averaging about 3.5yds per carry against the Beavers. This is is still stout run defense, but not quite the stiffling defense the numbers suggest

  • I suspect the Trojans will test this run defense, particularly between the tackles and see if they can do some damage. I also think USC will use a bit more misdirection with motion and formations (see Nebraska) to use the Beavers speed against themselves

  • The Beavers will definitely bracket cover Fred Davis in an attempt to take him out of the gameplan

  • The Beavers will leave the safeties in the middle of the field and force corners to cover one on one on the sidelines. This plays to the weakness of USC and should be a great test for the players and coaches. In order to be successful offensively in this game, USC will need to have success throwing the intermediate route to the WR, particularly on the sidelines

  • Oregon St rushes the passer extremely well. Avoiding sacks will be critical for the Trojans. Look for some designed roll outs for Booty in his first game back in 4 weeks

  • This Oregon St defense reminds me a lot of UCLA's defense last year...we all know how that turned out. Great opportunity for SC to show everyone they can defeat that type of scheme

  • Sounds like Stafon is much healthier this week....I hope so

USC Defense vs OSU Offense

  • The Beavs have improved significantly throughout the season offensively, primarily as a result of better QB play resulting in less turnovers.

  • OSU has had games of 7, 6 and 5 turnovers (all losses), but has only turned the ball over 3 times in the last 3 games (all wins)

  • The Beavs rely heavily on their running game. 3yr starter Yvenson Bernard is questionable for the game, but then again he missed the game last year when OSU upset the Trojans in Corvallis

  • I think the Trojans will control the run game and will look to apply more pressure than normal to the young OSU QB in order to force turnovers

  • The OSU receivers are solid, but star WR Sammy Stroughter is out for the year. I think the Trojans will play less soft zone tomorrow than any time this year and force the Beavs to win with the passing game

This is unfamiliar territory for the Trojans with 2 losses before November. The offense is struggling and mistakes have really hurt this team. USC HAS A TON TO PLAY FOR, including a share of the Pac 10 title and a potential BCS bowl berth. Huge game tomorrow and a chance to set the tone for a big finish to the season. Hope to see you at the Coliseum tomorrow.

Fight On!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Big Time Game in Eugene

Wow...what a trip to South Bend/Chicago. I know Notre Dame is struggling this year, but there is always something special about watching USC vs ND in Notre Dame Stadium. USC has only defeated the Irish 12 times in South Bend, so Trojan fans should take the wins when they get them. This is also the first time USC has defeated the Irish 6 straight times. Congrats to Pete Carroll, his staff and the players on a great accomplishment. This is the most storied rivalry in college football and each win in the series should be embraced...WE LOVED IT!

It was awesome to see tons of Trojans in Chicago and South Bend...we ran into many friends, starting with dinner Thursday night.

The Friday afternoon rally at the Navy Pier is one of the great Trojan events...if you have not experienced it, I highly recommend getting to Chicago on Thursday so you can attend the rally. Thousands of Trojans together in enemy territory with the Spirit of Troy.

We tried something different this year...after the rally, we left Chicago for South Bend, where we had rented a house half a mile from Notre Dame Stadium.

The house was great and was a perfect place to hang out Friday night and post game Saturday. The Watkins stayed in South Bend as well and we met them at Linebackers Friday evening (unfortunately no pics, but trust me it was classic!) Rob, Andy and Dr Bob also stopped by to celebrate Saturday evening.

Saturday was an epic day with absolutely perfect weather in South Bend. We arrived very early and set up our Trojan tents and flags right in the middle of the ND booster lot right next to the stadium. Absolutely great turnout of Trojans as the flags seemed to attract USC fans from everywhere.

We even got a visit from "USC SYCO" who has been to over 180 consecutive USC games (home and away). He is often shown on TV waving this license plate.

I know there are a lot of pictures in this post, but it was such a great trip and no better way to end it than celebrating with the band after the game.

On to the Ducks....

General Observations on the Oregon Game

  • First game EVER in Autzen stadium between two Top 10 teams...that is hard to believe

  • This is a statement game for the Trojans...first time USC has been a Pac 10 underdog since November 2001

  • One of the most intriguing match ups of the year with Oregon strength (offense) vs USC strength (defense) and Oregon weakness (defense) vs USC weakness (offense)....these type of games are decided by 1) Turnovers 2) Big Plays on Special Teams and 3) Penalties

  • Trojans have played well in Autzen of late...let's hope that continues

Oregon Offense vs USC Defense

  • There is no doubt the Oregon offense is legit...the Ducks are 3rd nationally in rushing (295 yds/game), 2nd nationally in scoring (46 pts/game) and 2nd nationally in total offense (551 yds/game)

  • RB Johnathan Steward leads the conference in rushing and yards per carry...he is the key to this Duck offense. Stewart rushed for over 250yds last week against Washington. Stewart also leads the conference (11th nationally) in kickoff returns

  • To top it off, QB Dennis Dixon is ranked 4th nationally in passing efficiency, runs for 60 yards a game and has thrown and ran for a touchdown in each game this year

  • This will be a big challenge for the Trojans...USC has struggled with mobile quarterbacks and Dixon is playing lights out right now

  • The Trojans counter with the nation's fourth best rush defense (64 yds/game), 10th best scoring defense (17 pts/game) and third best total defense (252 yds/game)...something has to give and that is why this game is so intriguing

  • I think the defensive game plan is simple on paper...shut down Stewart and force Dixon to beat the Trojans. Easier said than done

  • I do think the Trojan defense can control the Oregon running game. The defense is taking this game as a personal challenge and I think they want to make a statement

  • There will be 2 keys to stopping the Ducks running game. First, control the middle of the line. Sedrick Ellis and Fili Moala are outstanding run stoppers and I believe they will control the middle. Second, maintain discipline on the edges. USC has both speed and experience on the edges with Rivers, Cushing, Lojack and Moore. There will certainly be some blown assignments, but I like the matchup for the Trojans

  • Pete said it on Tuesday to the press..."We need to hit Dixon". The Duck QB better have his head on a swivel and be ready to slide because the Trojans are looking to hit him hard. Ask Jake Locker how that turned out

  • The Ducks will be without 2 of their top 3 WRs for this game. Oregon will still be dangerous through the air, but this is a break for the Trojans

  • Dixon will look to rack up yards with the short passing game, particularly to tight end Ed Dickson. The Ducks will get their yards on Saturday, but will they get points?

  • The USC defense has been playing outstanding and I just have the sense this will be a breakout game in classic Pete Carroll fashion

USC Offense vs Oregon Defense

  • This matchup will decide the game...if the Trojans can move the ball, control the clock and keep the explosive Duck offense on the sideline, it should work out well for USC. On the other hand, if USC has multiple 3 and outs and worse turnovers, it could get ugly for the Trojans

  • From everything I am hearing, Sam Baker and Chilo Rachal with both start. If they are healthy enough to contribute, this will be a MAJOR boost to the Trojan offensive line.

  • Mark Sanchez will start at QB again for the Trojans and it will be a big test for him on the road in Eugene. Notre Dame stadium was loud for about 1 quarter last week...Autzen will be rocking

  • I think Stafon will be available play...although not 100%. Look for about the same distribution of carries to CW, SJ, JM and SH as last week. I think it is a good mix

  • Oregon is a bit soft up front. The Ducks' 3 top tacklers are 2 safeties and a corner...not a good sign for a defense. The Ducks rank 7th in the conference in rush defense and 7th in total defense (400 yds/game). Oregon has done a nice job forcing turnovers and thus has kept opposing teams out of the endzone (allowing 23 pts/game)

  • The Ducks did allow Washington 34 points (421 yards), Stanford 31 points in the first half (402 yards), Houston 27 points (545 yds) and Cal 31 points (400 yds)

  • The Ducks will play to stop the run first, using LBs and safeties to crash the gaps. Oregon will look to test Sanchez's ability to throw the ball

  • I think SC will try and use the passing game to open the running game. With the safeties likely involved in stopping the run, I think Sanchez will be able to find some openings. I expect a big game from Patrick is his time. The Ducks will focus on Davis and Havilli

  • If the Ducks try and play straight up against the Trojans, look for the USC OL to dominate. SC will break some nice runs in this game. It is critical that CW and JM minimize the negative plays. CW must go forward and not always look for the cutback lane

  • I just don't see the Ducks allowing USC to run against 7 in the box...they will bring up the safety and force Sanchez to make plays. I think Mark is up to the challenge...his confidence is growing everyday

  • It is critical that the Trojans do not make many mistakes in this game. Turnover and penalties that put the Trojans in 2nd/3rd in long may be too much to overcome

This is a huge opportunity for the Trojans and is the type of game where USC has excelled in the past. I have a feeling the Trojans will play their best game of the season...let's hope its enough for the victory.

Fight On!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back to South Bend

We are leaving for Chicago/South Bend tomorrow....short week=short blog.

Thoughts on UofA Game

  • I have never seen a college football team with so many injuries...losing Baker, Malualuga and Heberer was just unbelievable. T2 and Kyle Moore were also dinged on the last drive

  • The Trojans have Butch Lewis, a third string left tackle who did not practice during the week because he was in an ankle boot, protecting the blind side of a second string QB

  • Throw in Tiny Malu (3rd string) playing right guard with a hamstring issue and a second string center with torn triceps and you have a ridiculous MASH unit

  • Having said that, I was very impressed how the Trojans just fought and won the game. This game VERY EASILY could have gone the other way, but the Trojans handled the adversity and pulled through...this was a huge win for the program....something to be proud of!

  • Joe McKnight completely changed this game...not only by making big plays but by injecting big time enthusiasm into the crowd and the team. Joe showed he can change a game...I think Coach Carroll learned that it is time to let the playmakers play

  • Sanchez made a couple of great plays with his feet and really only made 1 big mistake (terrible interception...the other interception was a pretty good throw). With the OL issues the Trojans have, Sanchez adds a needed dimension of escapability

  • Turner and Vidal looked solid. I hope PT can get back on track

  • The defense played outstanding....very impressive. Shut down the run and really clamped down on the passing game in the 4th quarter. Trojans are playing less soft cover 2 and mixing up the coverages really made a difference in this game

Thoughts on the Irish

  • Obviously the Irish are 1-6 this year and have been struggling. However, ND has played much better the last 3 games

  • With Sharpley at QB, the Irish do have the ability to make plays in the passing game. Sharpley has played much better than Clausen, but he has shown a propensity to throw into coverage

  • The Irish have really struggled to run the ball....I think the Trojans will shut down the running game and force ND to win it through the air

  • The weakness for ND has been the OL...the question is whether SC will aggressively go after the QB. I think we will see a very similar defensive gameplan as last week....while the Trojans only registered one sack, Tuitama was under pressure often

  • It sounds like Booty has a decent chance to start...probably wont know until Thursday afternoon. This will have a big impact on the offensive plan

  • It appears that Stafon Johnson will be ready to play...he is a difference maker

  • The Trojans will likely play more aggressive on offense...I don't think they want to let ND hang around at home

  • This game will be decided by turnovers and special teams...if the Trojans win both of these, it should be a victory
  • I expect another close game, but hopefully the Trojans can pull it out. lets hope big #66 can play this week.

See you in South Bend and Chicago

Fight On!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gut Check Time

Losing to Stanford is completely and totally unacceptable. There is enough blame to go around for this loss and unfortunately I think many could see something like this coming. The team has shown inconsistent and sloppy play dating back to last year. A lot of this is on the coaches and I will discuss this below. All is not right with Trojan football program right now and I think (hope?) Pete Carroll agrees. Here is my (completely uninformed view) on what is wrong:

1) Complacency--Everyone in and around the program has become complacent...including the fans. Given the unbelievable run this program has been on, this is hard to avoid. The players and coaches are simply showing up and expecting to win...this is not what got the Trojans to where they are. I think we saw this big time at UCLA last year and again against Stanford. There is no sense of urgency, no "chip on the shoulder". The Trojans need to get this back. A big piece of this falls on the coaches. This complacency reared its ugly head on 3rd and 19 in the 4th quarter against Stanford. The Trojans clinging to a 6 point lead late in the 4th choose to throw it deep over the middle? USC would NEVER call this play if we were playing Cal, Oregon, etc...they got COMPLACENT. Result...ball is intercepted and returned into Trojan territory. I have no doubt the Trojan defense would have prevented a 80yd Stanford drive...instead the Cardinal only had to drive 40yds.

2) Turnovers--When the Trojans were rolling every team they played, they were absolutely dominating the turnover ratio. Last year this became a struggle and this year has been an absolute disaster with turnovers. There are a variety of reasons (in my opinion) why the Trojans are struggling with turnovers. The Offense--Couple of things here. First, in past years, the Trojan offense would jump out to big leads and force other teams to take chances, resulting in turnovers. Now the Trojan offense is less explosive and teams realize they can play it close to the vest...less turnovers. Also, the Trojan passing game this year has been inconsistent at best. A big reason for this has been the young wide receivers. JDB deserves to take some of the blame, but probably not the level of heat he is taking on USC message boards. USC has thrown a full season's worth of interception in only 5 games. The Defense--While the Trojans are putting more pressure on the QB this year than last (thanks to the great play of Sed Ellis, LJ and Kyle Moore), they inexplicably seem to play very timid on 3rd and long (or 4th and long). 3rd and long is the best opportunity to force turnovers (5 and 7 step drops allow for more sacks....sacks=fumbles and long passes=more interceptions), but for some reason the Trojans play very soft and conservative. Allowing Stanford to convert a 4th and 20 with the game in the balance is shocking....even more so given the Trojans chose not to apply pressure to the untested QB.

3) Special Teams--Special teams at USC have been very poor under Carroll, with the exception of the return teams with Reggie. Special teams are a big negative for the Trojans. The punt return for a TD last year at OSU cost USC the game. Against Stanford, the Trojans had a blocked extra point and allowed 23 yds per punt return. The combination of poor returns for the Trojans and big returns for the opposition has created a very significant field position disadvantage for USC. USC does not seem interested in using special teams to create an advantage despite having an unbelievable group of athletes.

4) Injuries--The Trojans have been absolutely decimated by injuries. Injuries of this magnitude to any other team in America would render those teams completely uncompetitive. When is the last time a team lost 2 starting OL on one play! As it stands today, the Trojans starting OL looks like this:

  • Sam Baker--playing with broken rib and strained hamstring
  • Jeff Byers--playing with injured thumb (cannot grip the ball)
  • Matt Spanos--playing with torn triceps and severely damaged finger
  • Zack Heberer--2nd string RS Frosh
  • Drew Radovich--Healthy! (knock on wood)

You add to this the Trojans are missing their 2 best running backs (Gable, Stafon), are playing a 5th string guy at corner (converted safety), missing their starting SLB (Cushing) and of course are playing the 2nd string QB! This is just bad luck for the Trojans and there is nothing to do about it except hope the kids get healthy and there are no more injuries!

Enough about was a disaster. The real question is how will the Trojans respond?

USC vs Arizona

This is the biggest game for USC in a long time....the 5th most important game of the Carroll era in my opinion

1. Oklahoma (2005 Orange Bowl)
2. Texas (2006 Rose Bowl)
3. ASU (2003--following the loss to Cal...this game got the Trojans rolling)
4. UCLA (2001--Pete makes it clear the Trojans are back)
5. Arizona (2007--Is the run over or are the Trojans going to rebound?)

This is the most nervous/anxious/excited/fired-up I have been for a SC game in some time. Not only is this a "crossroads" game for the program, but also the first start for Mark Sanchez. Interesting fact--this is the first time a QB has missed a game due to injury since Pete Carroll took over as head coach. There is just a different feeling about this game...I expect a fired up crowd early in the game...hopefully the Trojans can play well and maintain that momentum.

  • The Wildcats are one dimensional on offense...they rank 14th nationally in passing offense and 111th nationally in rushing offense

  • Defensively, Arizona is ranked 7th in the conference against the pass and 5th in the conference against the run...disappointing numbers for a team known for fielding a very good defense

  • Arizona hired Texas Tech offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes in the off season and he is responsible for the explosive passing attack led by QB Willie Tuitama

  • I expect the Trojans will shut down the Wildcats running game and force AZ to rely on the passing game. Given the injuries at corner for the Trojans, this may be a challenging match up. The Wildcats have a trio of talented WR led by Mike Thomas. Thomas had a nice game against SC in the Coliseum 2 years ago.
  • Given the injuries, I think the Trojans will play a soft cover 2 most of the game....keep the ball in front and tackles. The weakness of the AZ offense is the offensive line...I think the Trojans will try and get pressure with the front 4 (at least during the first half). Oregon St sacked Tuitama 8 yes 8 times last week

  • I think Tuitama will be able to move the ball down the field...will the Trojans be able to keep the Wildcats from scoring? I think Pete is going to rely on the defense to win this game

  • Offensively, I think the Trojans are going ULTRA ULTRA conservative. Pete cannot stand the turnovers and I think the offense will reflect this. This makes me very nervous as I think it plays into the strength of the AZ defense

  • AZ has 2 very good corners...expect them to play tight, take away the short passes and force Sanchez to make some throws to beat them. I am not sure that Pete will allow Sanchez to do this

  • I think you will see SC try and establish the running game...not a bad plan except for the health of our OL. Hopefully we will see a more diverse running game with some sweeps and draws...probably a few more carries for Havilli. Also, look for the Trojans to run left much more than right (assuming Byers is at LG and not center)

  • Almost guarantee a reverse for Rojo tomorrow. Also expect the Trojans to try and rely on Davis an Havilli in the passing game. AZ will be expecting this so it will be interesting to see what happens

  • UCLA and Stanford created the blueprint to beat SC...pressure the QB, crowd the line and see if the QB can beat you. Well one thing Sanchez can do to be very effective against this strategy is to tuck the ball and run it. I hope (and believe) Sanchez will make a couple of big, important plays with his feet tomorrow

  • I think you will see a couple of deep balls from Sanchez, but they will be deep enough that if they are intercepted it will be like a punt. I would be shocked to see the 20 yard crossing routes over the middle
  • Will we see a lot of Joe McKnight...who knows, but I doubt it. Pete is going conservative and JM has 2 fumbles already this year

I expect a very close low scoring game tomorrow. I can't wait! Lets hope the Trojans come out on top. Huge game for the program...I believe in this team and coaching staff. See you tomorrow.

Fight On!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Back on Track?

No reason to rehash the UW game. The Trojans were sloppy, got some bad calls and survived. The Trojans have an established history of struggling in Pac 10 road openers under Pete Carroll...that trend continues. A couple of bright spot from the game

  • Chauncey Washington is regaining form. CW looked physical and had several runs where he pushed the pile. A healthy CW will make a difference this year
  • Patrick Turner looked and played like an experienced player who can be counted on in the clutch. In difficult conditions, PT caught everything
  • Fred Davis continues to look outstanding
  • Despite suffering 2 OL injuries 0n 1 play in the 1st quarter, the Trojan OL plowed the way for over 200yds rushing while protecting Booty
  • The defense was very stout....the Trojans contained Locker better than any other team has this year
  • Rey Rey is playing SO MUCH better at MLB....this combined with the play of Rivers is very encouraging. Just wait until Cushing returns

    Here is the highlight video prepared by the USC staff and shown to the team before the UW game. Somehow got posted on YouTube. Pretty cool.

Stanford Preview

  • Stanford is obviously struggling, but I will point out a couple of things to watch for

  • Stanford's defense is incredibly aggressive...they blitz on almost every play. This allows them to make big plays (averaging 3 sacks per game vs 1.75 for the Trojans, including 6 sacks last week vs ASU)

  • Stanford is 2nd in the conference in tackles for loss (big play defense), but ranks 9th in total defense and scoring defense (still giving up big plays)

  • This might be the game where USC breaks out the screen game. We have not seen the screen this year, but then again the Trojans have not been under much pressure
  • The Cardinal tend to leave the middle of the field wide open...this plays right into the hands of Fred Davis and Anthony McCoy

  • I expect a big game from Joe McKnight...if he can make the first guy miss it will be a big gain. Hopefully a couple of punt returns

  • Stanford has a much improved passing game (ranked 4th in the conference), but starting quarterback TC Ostrander will miss the game with the Trojans

  • Taking his place is a RS Soph who has thrown 3 career passes....a very tough venue for his first start

  • He is an athletic kid and will likely take off and run often as well as move the pocket to avoid pressure. He will likely look to dump the ball to running back Anthony Kimble as well

  • Stanford does have a very good group of wideouts. USC recruited Evan Moore and Mark Bradford, but Richard Sherman has done the most damage this year. Sherman is averaging an impressive 17 yds per catch...the question is will the Cardinal be able to get him the ball

This game is a total mismatch on paper....let's hope the Trojans come out focused and ready to play. See you Saturday!

Fight On!