Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pac 10 Road Opener

The Trojans have had several close games with the Cougs in Pullman, but it is a different story in the Coliseum. The Trojans delivered another beatdown to WSU with a dominating 47-14 victory. The Cougs made some plays, but the Trojans seemed in complete control throughout the game.

We had a great time at the tailgate and the game. Thanks to those who showed up early to set up (Dan, Michael, Kimberly, Andy), who brought and cooked the food (Kimberly, Jennifer) and who supplied the drinks (AT). Can't beat spending a day at the Coliseum with your friends and then watching the Trojans dominate at night. We were well prepared for the intermittent rain squalls and were able to enjoy some great games on the new tailgate TV.

A few of the players stopped by after the is what we told them about their performance

"PT...way to rebound from the Nebraska game"

"Lojack...that is two games in a row with a sack on the first series!"

"Sam...sure is nice to watch JDB throw the ball with all that time"

USC Offense vs UW Defense

  • By way of background, the Huskies are ranked 2nd in pass defense, 9th in rushing defense, 6th in scoring defense and 7th in total defense in the conference

  • Ohio St and UCLA ran all over the Huskies for 263 and 333 yards respectively....over 6 yards per carry. The Buckeyes and Bruins also racked up 481 and 537 total yards and 33 and 44 points, respectively

  • I think Sark has done a terrific job with the offense this season. Against Nebraska the Trojans dominate with run and against WSU, the Trojans destroy the Cougs through the air. There seems to be much more method to the madness and the willingness to take what is there as opposed to trying to take what you want

  • Last week I wrote that Sark would have a new wrinkle against the Cougs....Fred Davis. He will have something else this week. Maybe a couple of packages for McKnight?

  • Given the performance of the Trojan offense the last 2 games it will be interesting to see how UW attacks the Trojan offense. Best bet is UW commits to stopping the run, but plays their corners much tighter the WSU did. Have to believe UW wants to take away the short pass to the WR

  • I think this plays into the Trojans' game plan. USC is last in the conference in yards per completion...I know that Sark wants to establish the deep ball. I expect USC to take some early shots deep

  • UW has a nice pair of defensive ends in Te'o Neshieim and Gunheim, but against Boise St, Ohio St and UCLA, the Husky D managed only 3 sacks...the Trojan OL should be able to give Booty some time. When Booty has time, he can be dangerous

  • If UW elects to blitz, look for the Trojans to turn to the screen game. The screen game has been a focus in practice, but has not been used much in games (no real pressure on Booty yet)

  • USC will use the running game to wear down the Husky D...expect the run game to open up in the second half after limited success in the first half

  • The Huskies will likely focus their attention on Fred Davis....that should really open up Havilli. Very hard to cover both the FB and the TE effectively

  • USC has 5 different ball carriers with runs over 20 yards...that is amazing

  • A key stat that I like to focus on as a predictor of success is 3rd down conversions. The Trojans enjoy a large statistical advantage here, converting 55% of their opportunities on offense (4th nationally) while the Huskies are allowing 41% conversions on defense
    • USC Defense vs UW Offense

      • By way of background, the Huskies are ranked 10th in pass offense, 5th in rushing offense, 9th in scoring offense and 10th in total offense in the conference

      • Don't be fooled, this will be a very good test for the USC defense. The one area the Trojans have struggled with under Pete Carroll is defending the mobile quarterback. Well, the Huskies have a really good mobile quarterback in Jake Locker

      • Locker leads the Huskies in rushing and is 5th in the conference in that category...pretty amazing for a RS freshman QB

      • Locker has struggled a bit throwing the ball. He is completing 53% of his passes and has thrown 6 interceptions

      • I think the Trojans will shut down the "traditional running game", but there is no doubt that Locker will make some plays with his feet

      • Containment will be critical....the Trojan DEs looked much better containing the edge against Nebraska and WSU, so I am optimistic

      • USC will be starting Thomas Williams at SLB. Cushing is hurt and Matthews is banged as well. The play of TWill is important. The Trojan LBs can't afford to get out of position and miss tackles on Locker

      • Locker does not slide much so there is the opportunity to put some big hits on the talented QB. Rey has looked MUCH better this year...this may be a break out game for him

      • I think the Trojan safeties and corners will play pretty conservative...with this I mean, they are not going to get sucked in by Locker's running threat and let a ball go over their head. Much better to give up 10 yards on the ground to Locker

      • It will be interesting to watch the Trojans take on this challenge

      Other Notes

      • Huge game this week between Cal and Oregon. Should be a high scoring, exciting game. I think Cal has the better team, but Oregon seems to be really hot right now. I like Oregon in a close game scoring in the 30s or 40s

      • Bruins travel north to take on the Beavers. Big game for both squads. This could be a low scoring game unless turnovers get out of control. Both teams want to run the ball and both teams stop the run well. Big edge to UCLA at QB (Beavs have thrown 13 picks in 4 games!). If the Bruins can pull this out, they are set up for a nice year. I think they probably win

      • Cougs play the Wildcats. If Arizona loses this game, they may just tank the season. Stoops is desperate. Should be a good one

      • Irish take on Purdue. Purdue is explosive on offense and I just don't see how ND can keep pace. ND will run the ball well, but probably lose

      I think this could be a close game at halftime...would not surpirse me. Road games in the Pac 10 are never easy...just think back to last year. Lets hope the Trojans can grind out another victory on the road.

      Fight On!

      Wednesday, September 19, 2007

      Cougs visit the Coliseum

      Before we talk about the Cougs, I just wanted to touch on the Nebraska game last week. We had an absolute blast in Lincoln...great college town with some of the best fans around. The Trojans played great in my opinion and really made a statement. It was so loud on the first play from scrimmage...then Havili breaks through for 50 yds. Big statement win for the Trojans. I will say this...I don't think Nebraska is as good as people think. Probably were better last year. I hope Nebraska wins out...those fans deserve a good team.

      I don't want to dwell on the game. The Trojans flat out dominated. Here are a couple of tidbits and some sweet pics from the game and our trip. Thanks to Dan, Carolyn, Andy and Liz for the photography. Action pics courtesy of USC (thanks Ryan).

      Nebraska Quick Takes

      • This is the best the Trojans have run the ball since the UCLA game in 2005. The holes were absolutely ridiculous...see below

      • O'Dowd did a great job at center, but Byers and Baker are the stars on the OL. Truth be told, I think the misdirection and motion caused the Huskers more problem than the OL did
      • I thought Sark called an awesome game...very optimistic about the offense this year with that style of play calling
      • Equally important, the Trojan DL played a great game. Sed Ellis is absolutely dominant. I think he played so well because he got to meet Liz and Carolyn at the Friday walk through.

        Friday--Sed's dream come true

        Saturday-Sed dominates to show off for his new lady friends

      • The Nebraska fans are loud and proud. GameDay was pretty amazing...13,500 people there. We were there, but far from the action. We had the Trojan colors flying high

      • Despite our preference for Cardinal & Gold over the Big Red, we did make some friends in Lincoln

        Sam Keller's girlfriend

      Enough about Nebraska...on to the Cougs

      General Comments about the Game

      • This was a very close game last year in Pullman...28-22 Trojans. Cougs had the ball on the USC 39 with a chance to win
      • The Trojans played WSU last year without Dwayne Jarrett and Sedrick Ellis. In addition, Chris McFoy got hurt in the second quarter and did not return. USC played the second half with only 1 of its top 3 WRs
      • Obvioulsy Jarrett is gone, but Sedrick is back. He is a differnece maker (ask Nebraska). Someone should text Sed and tell him Liz and Carolyn will be there...should guarantee a big game from #49
      • The Cougs have a very good offense, particularly at QB and WR
      • The Trojans better not have a let down after the big win in Lincoln...hopefully the Coliseum crowd gets USC going early

      USC Offense vs Coug Defense

      • Cougs have given up an average of 407 yds and 29 points in 3 games (Wisconsin, Idaho, San Diego St.)
      • Only 5 starters return from the Coug defense that faced the Trojans in Pullman...USC returns 8 offensive starters from that game. Key loses are Ryan Kalil and Steve Smith...the Radovich for Kyle Williams trade may be an upgrade
      • I like this match up for the Trojans. After watching tape of the Nebraska game, I am sure the Cougs will be geared up to stop the run....look for the Trojans to come out passing
      • I think the Trojans are going to try and get the passing game going in this game...the Cougs have been particularly weak against the pass
      • I expect a few new wrinkles from Sark...I just have the feeling he is going to introduce something new each week. I definitely expect Hazelton to re-emerge in the offense. The are going to force feed Turner as well...the Trojans need Patrick to be a go-to guy
      • The Coug's have really struggled on 3rd down defense, allowing opponents to convert 54.4% of time (ranked 114th nationally). The Trojans are ranked 22nd nationally in converting 3rd downs. If the Cougs can't get off the field on 3rd down, it will be a long night
      • Chauncey is starting at RB, but I think CW, Gable and Stafon will get a similar number of carries
      • USC put up 28 points and 418 yards in Pullman last year...lets hope the Trojans can exceed that tomorrow...I think they will

      USC Defense vs Coug Offense

      • The Cougs have a very solid quarterback in Alex Brink. He is a fifth year senior and a very accurate passer. Brink is completing 74% of his passes with 10 TDs and 2 INTs
      • Brink is also a sneaky runner...he can escape the rush and do some damage
      • Brink is helped by a nice WR group. Bumpus (#5) is a former USC commit and a solid player. Also a dangerous punt returner. In addition to Bumpus the Cougs have Dillon (#2) and Gibson (#4)
      • I would describe the WR group as "crafty"..not super fast (but quick) and certainly not big. This group gets it done...including over the middle
      • Expect to see Brink focus on the short passing game...this is what USC gives and what WSU likes to take. Brink will use 3 step drops extensively, making it difficult for the Trojans to apply pressure
      • WSU will look to Dwight Tardy at RB. He had a nice game against the Trojans last year, rushing for 62 yards on 11 carries
      • Look for WSU to use some misdirection and screens to try and get Rey out of position. Worked for the Cougs last year. I think Rey is improving, but this will be a good test
      • I think USC will shut down the WSU run. The Cougs averaged 4.7 yds per carry last year, but Sedrick Ellis will have something to say about that this year. Also, this was Taylor Mays' second game as a true frosh starter last year...The Trojans played very conservatively with the safeties...not so much this year
      • SC returns 9 starters on defense from the game in Pullman last year. This year the Trojans have Sed Ellis vs Chris Barrett...nice upgrade. Also have Kyle Moore vs Dallas Sartz...could be a push. Cougs get back 6 starters, but loose 3 OL
      • Cougs will put up yards on the Trojans tomorrow, but I think points will be difficult. Cougs are averaging 37pts per game so far, but only scored 21 vs Wisconsin
      • If the Cougs try and make this a shootout, it could get ugly. However if WSU tries to dink and dunk down the field, avoids turnovers and penalties...this could be a close game in the 4th quarter

      In other Pac 10 news, I think the UCLA game tomorrow is critical for the Bruins. They have some injuries (Harwell, Dragovic, Olsen, Tevaga) and are reeling from an inexcusable loss to Utah. If the Bruins lose this game at home to a good UW team, it may be tough to rebound

      This is a good test for the Trojans....facing an experienced Pac 10 QB is never easy, particularly when that QB has talented WR. However, facing the Trojans in the Coliseum is no walk in the park. I expect another great game from the Trojans. Hope you can make it to the tailgate and the game.

      Fight On!

      Wednesday, September 12, 2007

      Trojans in Lincoln

      USC Trojans vs Nebraska Cornhuskers old school battle between two programs with too many National Championships and Heisman Trophies between them to count. What a great match up early in the college football season. Strangely enough, I have been to Lincoln twice this year on business and WOW are the people in Nebraska fired up for this game. Everywhere the Trojans go, "it is the biggest game since [fill in the blank]", but it is one thing to have that reaction in Pulman, Corvalis and is a whole new thing to have that in Lincoln. It is going to be an electric environment in Lincoln this weekend...I can't wait to see it.
      General Thoughts on the Game

      • Nebraska is a very solid team that is capable of beating the Trojans...particularly in Lincoln
      • I think the Huskers pull out all the stops to win this Notre Dame in 2005
      • Many (most) of the players on this USC team have ventured into hostile territory in their career...the trip to Arkansas last year was great experience to prepare for the environment the Trojans will face Saturday night
      • One big exception to this is Kris O'Dowd..the true frosh starting center for the Trojans. If #61 can play tough with limited mistakes it will go along way in this game
      • Lets hope Cushing, Turner and Washington are healthy for this game. I feel pretty good about Patrick right now, but have this bad feeling that Cushing will be less than 100%. I hope I am wrong about that...practice today (Wednesday) should be telling
      • I feel terrible for Josh Pinkard. The kid tears his right ACL first game last year and then tears his left ACL this year. One of the best players on this team...tough kid. Fight On Josh...we want to see you on the field next year!

      USC Offense vs Nebraska Defense

      • USC had modest success last year against Nebraska on offense, racking up 400yds and 28 points. The Trojans averaged 4.6 yards per carry and gave up 1 sack. Booty was 25-36 for 257 yds and 3td
      • Nebraska had a great DL last year...all 4 are gone this year including NFL draft picks Adam Carriker and Jay Moore
      • I like the matchup of the Trojan OL vs the Husker DL. If USC can capitalize here and set up the run game, it will be a significant factor in the game
      • Given the situation, look for Drew Radovich to regain his starting spot at RT over Charles Brown. Radovich is a veteran and started all 13 games last year (at right guard)...he is more accustomed to this type of environment. Brown will play extensively, but I bet the coaches want Rado in there the first series or two
      • The play of Kris O'Dowd will be critical. If he can hold his own, I am optimistic about the OL in this game. Kris is a very tough, competitive kid...exactly the type of player Trojan fans want on the OL. I think Kris will do just fine
      • Nebraska gave up 236yds rushing to Wake Forrest last week (4.6yds/carry)...this is after Wake gained 2 yards rushing (not a typo) against BC the week before
      • Wake was very successful with the WR end around play. Look for SC to explore this with Ronald Johnson as well as with Joe McKnight. I think we will see swing passes to McKnight with him in motion as well
      • I think Chauncey, Gable and Stafon split the carries this week. Last year, Moody got the bulk of the carries and did some damage
      • Much of Nebraska's back 7 returns. They have a new JC corner that is starting. Last year, USC's WR seemed to have their way with Nebraska's corners. With Jarrett and Smith in the NFL, things won't be so easy this year
      • Our WR are inexperienced, but I don't think Nebraska has the personnel to play tough bump and run like Arkansas did last year. I am optimistic about WR play
      • Vidal Hazelton really took a step forward last week. I think the combination of Turner, Oz and Vidal is pretty solid
      • Turner caught a big TD pass against Arkansas last year when the game was still doubt. This kid can play and has stepped in the past
        Watch Turner Touchdown
      • I think USC will try and establish the running game early and use the WR pass to the flats (Ausberry and Turner) to get Booty in rhythm
      • I expect USC to use Stanley Havili and Fred Davis extensively in this game to test the speed of the Nebraska LB as well as to loosen up the running game

      USC Defense vs Nebraska Offense

      • Last year Nebraska played very conservatively on offense...garnering only 211 total yards and 10 points
      • At home Nebraska will be much more aggressive. This game means everything to the Huskers and their fans. I expect a few trick plays as well
      • The strength of Nebraska's offense is their OL. Talented and experienced group
      • Nebraska just ran wild on Nevada, but the running game was slowed down by Wake. The Huskers gained 115 yards on 34 carries. Wake is solid against the run this year, holding BC to 54 yds as well.
      • I think USC's run defense is closer to Wake's than Nevada's
      • USC has been vulnerable to misdirection and cut back runs...this is not a key part of Nebraska's attack, but they may unveil it this week
      • USC's DL is very experienced and I expect it to hold up OK against the run...SC will force Nebraska to beat the Trojans through the air
      • That brings us to the Nebraska QB...a familiar face in Sam Keller. Keller was the starting QB for ASU in 2005. He led the Sun Devils to a 21-3 lead against the Trojans, but threw 4 second half interceptions as the Trojans won 38-28
      • Keller is a talented player...very confident and aggressive. This leads to some big plays and sometimes big mistakes
      • Keller had 2 interceptions and a fumble against Wake...I would expect him to play much better this week. However, if Keller gets pressured and tries to do too much, USC may be able to capitalize
      • I think USC will open up in a soft cover 2, allowing the underneath pass. I would expect the Trojans to move into a more aggressive scheme in the second half. I think Pete wants to prevent the big play early and force Keller to be patient and accurate
      • With Cushing hurting, expect to see Clay Mathews a lot in this game
      • Lets hope the Trojan defensive ends will do a better job on containment this week...if not, look for a steady stream of roll outs and bootlegs
      • This is a big stage for this very hyped defense to prove itself...let's hope they step up. I think they will

      Other Thoughts around the Pac 10

      • Injuries are taking their toll on the Bruins. They should cruise past Utah, but a big game with UW looms next week. Without Harwell (and Dragovic for now) this is a totally different defense. Olsen looks much better and Bell has been a nice surprise at RB
      • Speaking of UW, they look much better than I anticipated. Great for the Pac when the Huskies are good. Would be great to see them beat the Buckeyes this Saturday
      • Cal is scary good on offense, but their defense is soft...even softer than I thought
      • Overall, this is the most competitive the conference has been in several years. USC, UCLA, Oregon, Cal, ASU and Washington all look very solid. Oregon St is very talented, but lack of a playmaker at QB may hold them back

      I am off to Lincoln to watch the Trojans. Hope to see you there! Let's hope the Trojans can grind out a tough win on the road.

      Fight On!