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 program....do 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.
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
- ASU has given up 11 sacks the last two games and USC has recorded zero...you 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 better...you could see that little something extra last week
- 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.