USC Football: A Look at the 2nd Half of the Trojans' Season
USC’s scheduling certainly hasn’t been easy this year. This weekend, the Trojans return home to play Colorado—just their third home game of this seven-week-old season. With five of USC’s last six games in Los Angeles, you would think Lane Kiffin, Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes and the rest of the Trojans could breathe a little easy.
However, that is so not the case. USC runs a gauntlet of ranked teams and upset-minded teams having better than usual records this year. After Colorado, the Trojans are at Arizona, then have No. 3 Oregon, nearly ranked ASU, are at UCLA and finish the season off with No. 5 Notre Dame in their annual clash of storied football programs.
After Colorado, USC faces its toughest challenges of the season. Whether they win out or rack up another couple of losses remains to be seen. All will be decided over the next six weekends.
Let’s assume USC is going to beat Colorado this Saturday and take a look at the last five opponents on the Trojans’ schedule and the challenges they present for this team that has sputtered on offense all season.
October 27: Arizona Wildcats
Arizona, under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez started the 2012 season strong with three wins in a row over Toledo, Oklahoma State and South Carolina State. Since the Wildcats have entered conference play, however, their record has taken a hit. Granted, the three teams Arizona lost to—Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford—are arguably the best in the conference this year.
This weekend Arizona faces off against Washington at home before welcoming the Trojans to Tucson next week.
Here’s the thing, Arizona is only scary because they run the type of offense that is typically USC’s kryptonite—the hurry-up, no huddle, spread offense.
Of the five teams that round out USC’s schedule, Arizona is the least scary but also could be overlooked with Oregon looming on the horizon the following week.
Overall, USC’s stout defense should be able to hold the ‘Cats long enough for the offense to win this game. What the Trojans face the following week is far scarier…
November 3: Oregon Ducks
Oregon. What is there to say about the Ducks? 2,178 uniform combinations and zero National Championships or Heismans.
I kid, I kid, even though it is the truth.
Look, the Ducks are good—scary good. Their offense is fast, prolific and precisely the kind of offense USC struggles with. Marcus Mariota – a true freshman from Hawaii—has been incredible this year. He’s 114-of-168 for 1,301 yards, 15 TDs and five INTs, not including tonight’s game against ASU. Currently the Ducks are lighting up Sun Devil Stadium and showing ASU just who the boss is. Seriously, it’s 43-7 in the third quarter.
At this point, it isn’t disloyalty to say a Trojan upset of the Ducks would be a near miracle. Sure, there’s the whole principle of “any given Saturday,” but come on—we’ve all seen the Trojans. They aren’t exactly inspiring and Kiffin’s conservative SEC/Tressel-ball style of play calling is not going to advance the Trojans far downfield against the Ducks.
I tend to believe (and it may be self-preservation at work here) that Kiffin has a plan and has something up his sleeve for this November 3 matchup.
God, I hope so. Oregon has beaten their seven opponents to date (including the current ASU score) by an average of 33 points—and that is sure to improve to an even more impressive margin once the ASU game ends.
USC’s defense is good—but are they good enough to stop or at least slow Oregon’s offense?
November 10: ASU Sun Devils
The ASU game is Homecoming for USC and after last year’s 43-22 beatdown at the hands of the Sun Devils, the Trojans will be looking for redemption in front of a home crowd.
Todd Graham’s Sun Devils have gotten off to a good start this year. In fact, until tonight, it looked like they could be a challenger for the Pac-12 South. The massacre they are receiving from the Ducks, however, tends to tell this no so casual viewer that the Sun Devils still know how to implode when the stakes are highest.
Also, depending on what happens the previous week against Oregon, USC could be really fired up to take the Sun Devils down. ASU, before Oregon, was 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12 with their sole loss coming at Mizzou by four points.
Make no mistake, ASU will be upset minded when they land in Los Angeles.
November 17: UCLA Bruins
While it is true that last year’s final score of 50-0 will never ever ever get old for any Trojan fan—this year’s crop of Bruins are not the hapless Rick Neuheisel led bunch of yesteryear.
Led by new coach Jim Mora Jr. and freshman QB Brett Hundley, the Bruins are a surprising 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12. Their losses came at the hands of Oregon State and Cal, the latter in a 42-17 beatdown that left the Bruins somewhat demoralized. With victories over Rice, Nebraska, Houston, Colorado and Utah—the Bruins are one game away from being Bowl-eligible.
Like I said, this is not last year’s team. Not by a long shot.
In a rivalry like USC and UCLA anything can happen and it often does. This year’s game is at the Rose Bowl and the Bruins will be looking to get some of their wounded pride back after a solid year of Trojans crowing about the 50-0 win.
Anything can happen on any given Saturday and that is what makes the second half of USC’s schedule particularly dangerous.
November 24: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame is undefeated and ranked fifth in the first BCS Standings of 2012. Digest that for a moment.
It’s a bit scary, isn’t it? This is another rivalry where anything can happen (and often does), and while the Irish very well made ride into Troy undefeated, don’t expect them to emerge unscathed.
This will be the last game as a Trojan for Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes, TJ McDonald, Curtis McNeal, Jawanza Starling, Kyle Negrete (RS Sr), Abe Markowitz (RS Sr), and Wes Horton (among others).
There is no way the Trojans, this late in the season, should not be firing on all cylinders with the mission of taking down Notre Dame in their final collegiate game.
Sure, it’s a sappy, storybook ending, but it would also be a great ending, no matter what else happens the rest of the season. Beat UCLA and Notre Dame and it is a successful season for the Trojans.
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