Friday, October 27, 2006

Second Half is Winning Time

Short blog this week...just way too busy. The Trojans enter a critical stretch of games coming off a much needed bye week. Players got a bit healthier and coaches had time to re-evaluate the team....changes will be made. I am hopeful and optimistic for a nice stretch run.

  • It is always hard to win in Corvallis..period
  • In my opinion, the Beavs have only played one impressive game this year...2 weeks ago against UW. A solid 27-17 win in Seattle, racking up 488 yds
  • Excluding their performances over Eastern Washington and Idaho, the Beavs are averaging only 334yd and 15.2 pts per game
  • OSU turns the ball over (11 in 4 Pac 10 games)
  • The Trojans should be rested...but hopefully not rusty.
  • Look for a bigger contribution from Gable, Bradford, Turner, Kyle Moore and Jeff Schweiger
  • Booty will play better with Smith and Jarrett healthy
  • OL is poised for domination

I apologize for the lack of analysis and detail...let's hope the Trojans can grind out another tough win on the road.

Fight On!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Trojans Look to Finish First Half Strong

After completing the sweep of the state of Washington, the Trojans are now 5-0 with one more big game before their midseason bye.

There have been a lot of rumblings on message boards and in the press about the "problems" with this USC Trojan team and coaching staff. I would like to toss in my two cents on this....sure there are areas to improve and I am concerned about some issues I see, but the level of complaining from fans has become ridiculous. I think it is important to take a step back from "how can we call that play there" and look at the big picture...why has this program been so successful?

There are several factors which have contributed to USC's success over the last 4 years, but there is one characteristic that really stands out to me....this team and coaching staff plays to win without fear. When Pete Carroll has a chance to win the game on 3rd down from the 4 yard line, he wants to win...he is not afraid of leaving UW with a timeout because he is playing to win, not worrying about losing. He believes his players will make plays. This mentality allows the Trojan players to play fast (i.e. not thinking about mistakes) and playing fast allows you to make plays. I firmly believe that Pete's style and confidence has been instilled in the entire you think Leinart would have the confidence to call an audible on 4th and 9 at Notre Dame with the entire season on the line, if Pete and the staff played it safe all the time.

This is the style that got the Trojans to 50-2 and 3 consecutive bowl games with national championship implications....sometimes it works and sometimes it backfires, but the mentality breeds aggressive play which is what you want from your football team. Enough ranting from me.

Tailgate Update
Nice seeing everyone last week and thanks to everyone who contributed food and beverage. Special thanks to Aaron Wooler who kindly supplied most of the beer and Curt and Jennifer who supplied all the post game food (and cooking!). We are serving ribs this week....should be a good experiment (hopefully a tasty one). We will have some old favorites as well. Weather may be a bit dicey, so we will bring an extra EZ up...get there early to reserve your seat under the tent and near the TV! UCLA/Oregon game will be featured at 12:30.

Sun Devil Preview

  • ASU is 3-2 and coming off two crushing defeats at the hands of Cal and Oregon. The Sun Devils looked pretty good in their first 3 games, but have looked terrible so far in Pac 10 play
  • There are 3 clear reasons why the Sun Devils have played so poorly the last few weeks

    1) QB Rudy Carpenter regressed significantly from his form in 2005 and in the first 2 games of the year. In the last 2 games, Carpenter completed 22-55 passes for 210 yards

    2) Sacks....ASU had recorded 18 sacks (vs 3 against the Sun Devils) in the first 3 games and recorded only 1 in against Cal and Oregon (vs 11 against the Sun Devils). They went from +15 on sacks to -10

    3) Turnovers...ASU was -5 in turnovers against Cal and Oregon...very hard to win like that
  • Make no mistake this ASU team is very talented and dangerous...Carpenter was #2 in the nation in passing efficiency last year with unbelievable stats and the Sun Devils have the best running attack that Tempe has seen in a decade (#2 in the Pac 10; #29 nationally)

Reasons to be Nervous about the Game

  1. ASU has given up 11 sacks the last two games and USC has recorded don't have to be a genius to figure out that SC is going to bring pressure. What the Trojans need to be wary of is the screen pass....ASU is going to know the Trojans are coming with pressure and can use the screen to do some real damage. Herring and Burgess are very dangerous on the screen as is Terry Richardson
  2. ASU is absolutely desperate. The Sun Devils got rolled in their last 2 games, but this is a chance to salvage their season. Expect the very best the Sun Devils have to offer, which is a much different team than the team who showed up against Cal and Oregon. If Carpenter plays like he did last year, ASU is a legit top 15 team
  3. ASU can run the ball this year. RB Ryan Torian is averaging 93 yds per game and over 6yds per carry. This kid runs hard and breaks tackles. The Trojans cannot pin back their ears and only focus on the QB this year
  4. Terry Richardson may be the best kick/punt returner in the country. He took a punt to the house against the Trojans last year and has a KOR for a TD this year. Hopefully Van Blarcom will continue to boom KO's out of the endzone and the Trojans will not have to punt often
  5. Zach Miller may be the best TE in the conference...the Trojans have struggled with talented pass catching tight ends in the past. Miller is ASU's leading receiver

Reasons to be Optimistic about the Game

  1. ASU's offensive line is really struggling to protect the quarterback and have given up 14 sacks including 11 against the only 2 teams they played with a winning record. This combined with a healthy Sedrick Ellis leans in the Trojans favor
  2. ASU has not performed well defensively this year. The Sun Devils are ranked 8th in the Pac 10 in rushing defense, 6th in passing defense, 9th in scoring defense and 8th in total defense. ASU has struggled against the run in particular which bodes well for the Trojans who are hitting their stride in the running game. Look for a big performance from the Trojan backs on Saturday...ASU does not tackle well in the secondary
  3. The Sun Devils have struggled with turnovers (-4) and penalties (7.6 per game for #104 in the nation). Combine this with a 36% 3rd down conversion rate and you can see why ASU has averaged 18pts per game in their last 3 contests. Teams who turn the ball over and commit penalties are a nice fit for the Trojan defense
  4. The Trojans are starting to get healthy....Ellis is back, DJ is back and Chilo is back. Lets hope Steve Smith can play as well. By the way Chauncey is starting to feel much could see that little something extra last week
  5. The Trojans have a chip on their shoulder...they want to make a statement at home to finish the first half of the season going into a bye. The Trojans are ranked 2nd in the conference in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense....USC has something to prove

I would like to see theTrojans win the turnover battle for the first time since Nebraska, get at least 2 QB sacks and continue the momentum with the running game. However, the key to this game is the first quarter. If USC can get up early on ASU, I think the Sun Devils may pack it in....however, if ASU gets some early momentum and builds some confidence, this game will be a battle. Let's hope the Trojans can grind out another conference win at the Coliseum.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Finally Back to the Coliseum

It just seems like the Trojans have been on the road the entire season. Very tough for a young team to open with 3 of the first 4 games on the road, including back to back road games to open the Pac-10 conference schedule. The Trojans return home to the Coliseum sporting a 4-0 record, but with a lot of questions caused by youth and injuries....we will discuss below.

The tailgate returns this week as well. With the 12:30 start, the main meal will be breakfast with all the usual items. My guess is that we serve breakfast until about 9:30 and have a quick lunch shift from 11-11:30. Before the game, we will be watching the Arkansas-Auburn game (Woooooopigsooooooooie!)...we will be setting up the TV and grill after the game as well. Probably will watch the first quarter of Oregon-Cal game before heading home. Look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday.

Cougs Review

  • The Cougs played a great effort I have seen from them this year. The Trojans continue to get every team's best shot....particularly on the road. I think the Cougs will have a letdown this week against Oregon St...not saying the Cougs lose, but I would bet they play very flat (everyone seems to play flat after SC game)

  • WSU showed great offensive balance against USC and really kept the Trojans on their heels. You have to give a lot of credit to the WSU coaching staff for developing a nice game plan and to QB Alex Brink and his 2 great WRs for almost flawless execution

  • The Cougs are ranked 18th nationally in total offense and they showed it against the Trojans

  • In my opinion, there are 2 areas of concern (defensively) through 4 games. The Trojans have not generated much pressure on the QB with the front 4. This is issue #1

    We certainly did not see enough of this on Saturday evening

  • I think the lack of pressure is due to a combination of several factors. Most importantly, Sedrick Ellis has missed the last 3 games due to knee surgery. He is expected back this week and I think this will make an impact. Secondly, the Trojans are playing Brian Cushing at the defensive end position on most plays. Cushing is a great player, but in my opinion, his strength is playing in space (at linebacker) not taking on offensive tackles in pass rush

  • As a result of the above, opposing offenses have been able to focus on neutralizing Lawrence Jackson via double teams and roll outs away from his side. Let's hope that Sed's return makes a difference

  • The second concern is lack of turnovers forced....after getting 5 turnovers at Arkansas, the Trojans have only forced 4 turnovers in the last 3 games. This is a hallmark of the Pete Carroll defense...we need the defense to get the ball. This is how we turn 28-22 games into 35-15 games

  • I am not too worried about the secondary....the corners were not getting burned...they just need to find the ball and avoid penalties. The Trojans have good athletes in the secondary...I am hopeful

  • The play of John David Booty has been outstanding. This kid is making plays all over the field and has really taken a leadership position on this team. JDB has completed 68% of his passes with 10 TDs and 2 interceptions. More importantly, he is making the critical throws on 3rd (and 4th) down to move the chains

  • Steve Smith played his best game since the 2005 Orange Bowl....he stepped up when the Trojans needed him most. Huge props to SS!

  • It was great to see Chris McFoy catch his first TD pass as a Trojan. McFoy is a fifth year senior and has been a great Trojan. Unfortunately, on his next catch he suffered a shoulder injury which will sideline him 4-6 weeks

  • With the injury to McFoy and Rachal (ankle), the disabled list for the Trojans is getting very crowded. The Trojans are deep, but the injuries are taking its toll....the good news is that young players are getting a shot and this will payoff down the road

  • How about this the two deep roster (which includes the Trojans top 77 players), USC has 7 seniors. Wow!

Huskies Preview

  • The UW Huskies are 4-1 and playing some very good football. The players have bought in and believe...they will not be afraid of USC

  • UW is in the bottom half of the Pac 10 in most statistical categories
    Pass Offense-9th (198 yds/game)
    Rush Offense-6th (167 yds/game)
    Total Offense-7th (365 yds/game)
    Scoring Offense-8th (25 pts/game)

    Pass Defense-10th (236 yds/game)
    Rush Defense-3rd (105 yds/game)
    Total Defense-6th (341 yds/game)
    Scoring Defense-7th (23 pts/game)

  • Nothing special about the stats above, but the Huskies do a great job of getting their defense off the field on 3rd down. UW is holding opponents to 29% on 3rd down conversion which is 16th nationally. USC is converting 59% of its 3rd downs (3rd nationally)....if SC is converting on 3rd down, it could be a long day for the Huskies

  • The Huskies fortunes are completely in the hands of QB Isiah Stanback. Stanback is a 3 year starter and a very mobile QB (10.4 100m) with a strong arm. He is an outstanding athlete and has been making plays with both his arm and feet so far this year

  • Stanback has struggled with decision making in the past....particularly against SC. Look for Carroll to force Stanback to read coverages and make passes from the pocket. He is only completing 57% of his passes....let's hope the Trojans can control Stanback better than Vince Young!

  • The Huskies are solid in the skill positions, but not flashy. Shackelford is the leading receiver and Rankin is the leading rusher (with Stanback right behind him). UW has completed 3 passes over 50 yds (none for the Trojans), so the big play potential is there

  • The UW offensive line is young and has played better than expected so far. The OL is the key reason for the Husky success this year...Stanback has not been pressured much (sacked 7 times in 5 games) and has had time to make the right reads

  • Defensively, the Huskies have a solid DL and nice LBs. The defense is lead by DE Greyson Gunheim and LB Scott White. Combined those 2 account for 13 tackles for loss and 5 sacks

  • In the secondary, UW has solid safeties, but is relatively weak at corner. The Huskies are last in the Pac 10 in pass defense (97th nationally)

  • I expect the Huskies to focus on stopping the run and force the Trojans to beat them through the air...particularly if Jarrett does not play. I think the coaches have growing confidence in Booty and we will see him get the green light to throw the ball downfield

  • If the Trojans can establish the passing game early, the running game will follow. If the Trojans struggle through the air, expect to see Fred Davis involved in the short passing game. This may be the game the Trojans get the RB position involved in the passing game...Trojan RBs have caught only 6 passes in 4 games

  • Chauncey Washington continues to get healthy....expect a little more burst from him on Saturday. You may also see Staphon Johnson get his first carry of the season

  • Keep your eye out for Vidal Hazelton (#7 on offense) and Travon Patterson (#17)....these true frosh will be involved in the offense

  • Defensively, I expect a much better effort from the Trojans. I think SC will play with a chip on its shoulder and will get an added boost from the return of Sed Ellis. The Trojans need to contain Stanback...if he starts running wild and gaining confidence, it could be trouble for SC

  • I think the Trojans will be excited to be back in the Coliseum while the Huskies are making their second consecutive road trip....I hope the Trojan faithful make it difficult on UW and the Trojans grind out another Pac 10 victory.

See you Saturday

Fight On!