USC Football: Biggest Surprises for Trojans Through Week 3
On a bright, sun-bathed afternoon in Los Angeles, USC came out of the Coliseum tunnel determined to right the ship after a stunning loss to Washington State the week before.
With the Trojans' 35-7 win against an overmatched Boston College squad, USC can breathe a little easier and its coach, Lane Kiffin, might finally get a good night's sleep this evening.
Now 2-1, the men of Troy will look to build on this win after finally showing some life on the offensive side of the ball.
This slideshow will look at the Trojans three games into the season and offer one person's opinion of what has been most surprising for the Cardinal and Gold early in 2013.
Though fans of the program are feeling better about their Trojans, there are still plenty of concerns that will temper this week's satisfying win.
So good and bad, here are the biggest surprises of 2013 for the Trojans...
USC's Quarterback Play Has Not Been Up to Par
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Okay, so allow me to rain on the sunshine that USC's 35-7 win over Boston College brought in terms of the Trojans' quarterback play.
Though it is undeniable that the play of Cody Kessler against BC was light years better than anything he offered before, it still can't be ignored that he was abysmal prior to this game.
Of course, Kessler was not alone in being terrible, as his main competition for the starting job—Max Wittek—was equally inept in matching Kessler errant throw for errant throw.
Now with a very good game under his belt, Kessler will look to build on that as he prepares for a very good Utah State defense next week.
Good feelings of the Boston College game aside, the poor play of the quarterbacks has been a surprise early in 2013.
Tre Madden Is Leading a Surprisingly Good Group of Running Backs
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Before the season started, it was expected that USC would have to lean on a stout running game while the new quarterback became acclimated to his new role as the leader of the Trojan offense.
What is a surprise, however is that the featured tailback is not returning senior Silas Redd, but rather converted linebacker Tre Madden, who is also coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss all of the 2012 season.
Madden, a 6'1", 220-pound bulldozer, has been a revelation for the Trojans, and now he is the first USC back since Marcus Allen to rush for 100-plus yards in his first three games.
However, Madden is not the only back to make his mark in 2013, as true freshman Justin Davis has been solid as well, going for 188 yards (6.6 average) in backup duty.
Meanwhile, Javorius (Buck) Allen has been solid as well in limited action.
All of which begs the question: What will Lane Kiffin do with Silas Redd when he is ready to come back?
USC's Secondary Is Better Than We Thought
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Coming into this season, it was generally thought that USC's front seven would be the strength of the defense, and when it came to the secondary, fans would have to keep their fingers crossed.
Specifically, the cornerbacks were the cause of much angst from a suspicious fanbase that didn't have many nice things to say about Monte Kiffin's beleaguered crew of 2012.
But three games into 2013, the pass defense has been solid, and while USC has yet to play a serious contender (sorry about that, WSU), the defensive backfield has more than held its own this year.
Despite being banged up, the secondary has produced respectable numbers, holding opponents to an average of only 169 yards per game along with a single touchdown through the air in 2013.
Factor in the six interceptions produced so far this year, and it turns out that maybe this unit isn't as bad as many people had thought.
Of course, the mighty front seven for the Trojans is making life easier for USC's pass defenders with its relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but it is safe to say that fans would have been ecstatic to claim this group before the season started.
Most Experts Expected USC's Defense to Be Better, but This Good?
Morgan Breslin (outside linebacker)
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In a season during which very little has gone right, the one thing Trojan fans can smile about is the play of USC's new 5-2 defense.
Through three games, new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has dialed up a unit that has simply dominated USC's opponents.
Rated at or near the top of most defensive statistical categories, the Trojans have found a comfort zone as a smothering unit that has left their opponents stymied early on.
For a unit that is still learning the intricacies of a new defensive scheme, it is scary to think how good it will be later on.
Harry How/Getty Images
Ultimately, the biggest surprise for USC fans is that their team is only 2-1 three games into the 2013 season.
In a season in which it was imperative that the men of Troy get off to a fast start, that notion was dashed when they laid their egg in the 10-7 loss to Washington State.
Now faced with the prospect of a disappointing season, the Trojans will try to find a way turn it around. The win over Boston College may act as that springboard, although the extent to which it does remains to be seen.
Still, with a stout defense and a talented set of skill players on offense, the potential is there for USC to sneak up on opponents as the tough part of the schedule looms on the horizon.
If things go right from here, the men of Troy can salvage the 2013 season and perhaps even make it to an important bowl game.
And for Trojan fans, that would be the best surprise of all.