Even the most fervent Trojan fan had to have his/her expectations somewhat tempered before USC faced the University of Oregon in Eugene on Halloween. The Trojans were unsuccessful in their three previous trips to the Beaver State, but last Saturday’s 47-20 drubbing in Autzen Stadium probably had the highest stakes of any of the four games.
After enduring the worst loss, ever, in the nine-year Pete Carroll era, Southern Cal, now ranked 12th in the BCS Standings, must regroup, and reassess the direction of their seemingly lost season.
Given that a seventh consecutive Pac-10 championship seems highly unlikely, unless the Ducks choke three of the next four games away to inferior opponents, the Trojans will have to focus on fixing things they can control. After a nightmarish All Hallow’s Eve, the Trojans became something worse than a fourth-place team—they became exposed.
Each school that USC faces down the road will now have heaps of game film to research the Trojans’ shortcomings, especially defensively. USC demonstrated that they have great difficulty containing a spread offense, and a mobile quarterback. Their run defense, ranked fifth in the nation coming into the game, gave up an astounding 391 yards on the ground at an average of almost eight yards per rush to the Ducks.
The Trojans also let the hostile “Fright Night” crowd in Eugene get inside their heads, as they could only muster three points in the second half, causing the score to get out of hand. If USC hopes to end their losing streak at one, they’ll have to play better on the road, starting with next Saturday in Tempe against Arizona State, ranked 18th in the nation in total defense.
The Sun Devils feature an improved offensive line that will be tested by an angry Trojan front seven that was simply abused by Oregon’s rush attack. While 4-4 ASU’s level of play is not quite on par with Oregon’s, Sun Devil Stadium is always an unfriendly environment when the Trojans come to town.
Saturday’s game in Tempe will be USC’s sixth away game in nine games, so Southern Cal should be properly road-tested at this point. ASU could be mulling a change under center from Danny Sullivan to Samson Szakacsy, a one-time USC recruit who is finally recovered from elbow surgery, and brings a bit more athleticism to the quarterback position for Arizona State.
Regardless of how the Sun Devils come out against the Trojans, USC must play each of their remaining four regular season games with blinders on, and not get caught up in whether the rest of the nation is winning, or losing.
Yes, they lost the biggest game of the season. Yes, their BCS Championship hopes are pretty much shot. Unless Oregon offers a repeat of 2007, when they lost three consecutive games after Heisman-contending quarterback Dennis Dixon went down with a season-ending knee injury, USC can forget about winning the Pac-10.
If Southern Cal loses again this season, All-American safety Taylor Mays will wish he had gone pro after the Rose Bowl victory over Penn State on New Years' Day. Unless USC wins out, Mays will likely cost himself millions of dollars in signing bonus money as he slides down 2010 NFL draft boards. But there is still a little hope that, with a lot of help from other top-tier schools around the nation, the Trojans can still get invited to a BCS Bowl game.
This scenario would require multiple losses from the likes of Florida, Texas, Alabama, Boise State, Cincinnati, and TCU, as well as string of victories from Cal, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. Should this series of events somehow play out, then Southern Cal can still hold out hope given the human element of the BCS.
If the BCS committee thinks USC would attract a big television audience, and sell tickets in the right matchup, then we could see the Trojans in a BCS bowl after all…assuming they beat ASU, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona. Otherwise, USC will be lucky to play in the Holiday Bowl.
On the injury front, the Trojans still don’t have word on TE Anthony McCoy’s (knee) availability for the Arizona State game. If McCoy can’t go, then backup Blake Ayles would get another start. LB Jarvis Jones (neck) has already been declared out by head coach Pete Carroll, but DL Nick Perry (shoulder), DT Armond Armstead (wrist), and DE Everson Griffin (toe) remain questionable.