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USC Football: Winners and Losers from the Trojans' First Month

Rick McMahanSenior Writer IOctober 10, 2016

USC Football: Winners and Losers from the Trojans' First Month

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    With a third of the season "in the can," and USC sporting a 3-1 record, it is time to take a look at those various Trojans who have done well and those who have not.

    Few Trojan fans anticipated a loss this early, and frankly, overall, the record that USC has accumulated has been less than hoped for.

    Of course, there are reasons for the struggles that the men of Troy have encountered, and this slideshow will look at why USC has fallen out of a top-10 ranking.

    But we will also look at those Trojans who have excelled as well, and both the winners and the losers are represented by a coach, a unit and a player.

    The good news for those who made the "L" bracket is that there is plenty of time to right the ship.

    For those already doing well, hey, keep it up.

    Now, let's get started, beginning with the losers so far in 2012.

Loser: Offensive Line

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    As a unit, there is little in the way of surprise that the offensive line would fall into the loser category so far in 2012.

    After all, this is a group of guys whose inconsistency has led to the entire offense struggling.

    What is a surprise, though, is the fact that the "big uglies" were considered a strength going into this season.

    With four starters returning from 2011, O-line coach Jim Cregg's charges were expected to pick right up where they left off last year when they led the nation in fewest sacks allowed and opened up gaping holes for tailback Curtis McNeal to run through.

    Of course, there are reasons why there has been a drop-off and two that come to mind are the loss of left tackle Matt Kalil to graduation and the injury to center Khaled Holmes, which forced him to miss the loss to Stanford.

    And while Kalil isn't walking through the Coliseum tunnel anytime soon, Holmes should be better by the Utah game.

    Which is good because this group needs to find their way quickly for the Trojans to get to where they want to go by the end of the season.

Loser: Matt Barkley

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    OK, before I get any hateful comments, please understand that Matt Barkley is one of, if not my favorite all-time Trojan.

    Having said that, at this point of this season, he has not delivered the performance most expected of a guy many had tabbed winning the Heisman Trophy.

    Of course, it is not all his fault.

    As stated in the prior slide, a woeful performance from his offensive line has left Barkley with less time to throw downfield and an inconsistent running game (for the most part) has left opposing defenses with the luxury of keying on the pass.

    Also, not to be discounted is that the offensive game-planning has been suspect as well.

    Barkley is too good to continue what has been thus far a very uneven season.

    Look for that to change coming out of the bye week.

Loser: Lane Kiffin

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    A lot was made of the returning talent the Trojans had coming back in 2012, especially on offense, and rightfully so.

    With Heisman front-runner Matt Barkley, not one but two 1,000+ yard receivers in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, along with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in the form of Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal, it is was easy to see that USC was bound to be formidable this year.

    Or so we thought.

    Instead, the Trojans have struggled in 2012 on offense and they have yet to turn in a complete game where the passing and running portions on that side of the ball have clicked.

    To be fair, as illustrated earlier, the offensive line's lack of effectiveness has played a part in the lack of production, but as the "boy genius" of the offense, Lane Kiffin must also accept his part of the blame.

    Like the rest of the offense, look for Coach Kiffin to get his bearings during the bye week.

    For the Trojans' sake, let's hope so.

Winner: Defensive Line

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    As the fans of the men of Troy know, the defensive line was supposed to be the primary concern of the Trojans in 2012.

    But like so much else this year that doesn't follow form, it turns out that Ed Orgeron's crew is the least of USC's concerns.

    With only one returning starter from 2011 (Wes Horton, and he has been hurt most of the year), the defensive line has been a happy surprise, with tackles George Uko and Antwaun Woods—along with surprise junior college end Morgan Breslin—leading the way, USC has been stalwart along the line.

    Breslin (more on him later) has simply been a beast while Uko has lived up to the promise that the Trojans have had for him since he set foot on campus.

    And while Woods hasn't filled up the stat sheet, he has done exactly what has been asked of him by clogging the middle, allowing his teammates to dominate around him.

    Meanwhile, true freshman Leonard Williams has been a revelation, and almost everyone else on the defensive line has contributed as well.

Winner: Morgan Breslin

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    "It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's Morgan Breslin!"

    Like the old catchphrase extolling the virtues of the man of steel, Trojan fans have been singing the praises of the junior college transfer who came to USC as an unheralded afterthought.

    Quiet and unassuming, Breslin lets his play on the field do his talking and so far in 2012, those results have been screaming.

    With 9.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks, Breslin has been simply unstoppable for defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.

    Breslin has a motor that never stops and his unending effort can best be summed up with his play in the Cal game, when he made a tackle for loss on the first play of the game and had a sack on the last play.

    Can he keep this up for the whole year?

    That remains to be seen but so far, so excellent.

Winner: Monte Kiffin

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    Can we all just stop hammering the elder Kiffin about defense now?

    Though they are still a work in progress, USC's defense has been the most steady unit of this year's Trojan team.

    If the Trojans can get a bit more consistent play from cornerback Torin Harris and safety Jawanza Starling, USC has the potential to be the dominant group that marked the middle part of ex-coach Pete Carrol's tenure.

    In the meantime, old Monte will keep doing what he has been doing for decades, which is dial up a variety of defenses to confound his younger coaching opponents.

    And hopefully, soon his critics will stop yakking about the game passing him by.

Conclusion

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    Fortunately for Trojan fans, it is still early, and USC has time to fix the ills that have plagued them so far this year.

    The good news is that the men of Troy still have all of that talent that had so many hopeful for a championship run this year.

    Whether or not that still happens is open to conjecture, but what is certain is that the rest of the year must find the Trojans displaying improved play, especially on offense.

    A one-loss USC team will have to merit consideration from the powers that be when determining a bowl bid, but it will take a much better overall team than we have seen so far in 2012.

    One thing is certain...

    If the Trojans can run the table, there will be no "losers" at the end of the year.

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