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.
- The Cougs played a great game...best 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 factoid.....in the two deep roster (which includes the Trojans top 77 players), USC has 7 seniors. Wow!
- 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