USC vs. Notre Dame: Trojans Still Face Gauntlet That Might Derail Bowl Bid

Kyle Kensing@kensing45Contributor IOctober 20, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19:  Stephon Tuitt #7 and Carlo Calabrese #44 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish sacks Cody Kessler #6 of the University of Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NCAA sanctions denied the USC Trojans bowl games in 2010 and 2011, but the program last missed the postseason because of its record in 2000.

USC is 4-3 after suffering a 14-10 setback Saturday against Notre Dame. It needs three more wins to gain bowl eligibility.

The Trojans play 13 regular-season games by virtue of their trip to Hawaii, which raises the minimum from six wins to seven.

Pac-12 cellar dwellers Cal and Colorado remain on the USC docket, but there’s hardly a guaranteed win among conference counterparts Utah, Oregon State, Stanford and rival UCLA.

A harsh reality set in since the initial excitement interim head coach Ed Orgeron introduced. The Trojans have some glaring issues, and one of the most apparent was on display in Saturday’s loss.

Notre Dame’s defensive front broke through for seven tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries.

Orgeron sang the praises of Notre Dame’s front seven in his postgame press conference, per

No other defensive front a young Trojans offensive line will see for the remainder of the season features Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt.

No, USC will, instead, see: Trent Murphy and Ben Gardner from Stanford; Trevor Reilly, Nate Orchard and Tenny Palepoi from Utah; Scott Crichton from Oregon State; and Pac-12 sack leader Keenan Graham from UCLA.

Since jumping all over Arizona, 28-3, in the first half last week, USC has been held to just 20 points in six quarters. The roller-coaster ride that is the 2013 USC football season is on a familiar dip.

USC’s defense returned to form after giving up 93 its last two times out, but the two sides of the ball cannot seem to click at the same time. The Trojans will need to put complete games together to navigate the land mine that is their remaining schedule.

That’s easier said than done.  

After putting up 38 a week ago, the offense again regressed. The Trojans’ woes Saturday are likely to continue vexing them into the back half of the conference slate.  

Wide receiver Marqise Lee’s return from injury was short-lived. He came out in the first half. Darreus Rogers went down in the second half after stepping up with six receptions, five more than he had in any game prior to Saturday. 

Lee may not be hampered for long. Orange County Register beat writer Rich Hammond reported via Twitter that Lee looked fine after the game. 

But injuries are an undeniable problem with the Trojans' depth issues. 

Sophomore running back Tre Madden was scratched, nursing a hip injury incurred against Arizona. Senior Silas Redd had an outstanding night with 112 yards rushing and the team’s sole touchdown.

Otherwise, the lack of Madden left the USC run game stuck in the mud. That’s a problem for an offense struggling to establish the pass.

There are several reasons behind the Trojans’ inconsistency, but the why is less important than the end result. Until USC can find an answer to its depth issues and establish a more consistent offensive attack, three more games are no shoo-in. 


Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer for B/R. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.