USC Offense, Please Identify Yourselves Now!

Paul PeszkoSenior Writer ISeptember 22, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 18:  Head coach Lane Kiffin of the USC Trojans congratulates quarterback Matt Barkley #7 after a touchdown during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on September 18, 2010 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Who Are You?  the classic by Keith Moon and The Who could be the theme song for all the Trojan faithful.

After three games against relative cream puffs, Lane Kiffin’s offense is still groping for an identity.  Although they are 3-0, we have no idea who they are, really.

It’s easy to see who Oregon is…and Stanford…and Arizona…and even Arizona State.  But that middle tier of the Pac-10 (USC, Washington, Cal and UCLA) is going through a severe identity crisis.

The Trojans started out 2010 against Hawaii and looked as though they were going to have the wide-open offense of the 2002-2008 teams, which Kiffin helped to engineer as a wide receivers coach and later as an offensive coordinator.

Matt Barkley threw for 278 yards and five TDs while the Trojan ground game rumbled for 246 yards with Marc Tyler, last year’s forgotten tailback, gaining 154 yards as the Trojans put up 49 points.

But enter Virginia, and the faithful were all set for a good ole Coliseum butt-kicking.  And they got one.  Only it was the Cavaliers’ defense that kicked butt, holding Tyler in check and limiting Barkley and the Trojan offense to just 17 points.

To add insult to injury, the Trojans dropped two spots in the Associated Press Poll from 16 to 18.

Last week in Minnesota, the Trojans went up against a Gopher defense that gave up 41 points to South Dakota the week before. 

Once again the Trojan faithful were licking their chops expecting another Matt Barkley five-TD performance against the porous Gopher defense.

But Barkley had a so-so day, throwing his first two interceptions of the year to go with his two TD passes.

Instead, it was the Trojan ground game exploding with their No. 1 running back, Marc Tyler, picking up…uh…check that.  It seems as though Tyler is no longer No. 1, at least he wasn’t in the Minnesota game.

It was Allen Bradford racking up 131 yards including a 56-yard TD burst.  It seems that Kiffin decided to go with Bradford the instant that Tyler put the ball on the ground. 

In addition, C.J. Gable picked up 36 yards on six carries and true freshman Dillon Baxter gained a not-very-impressive 24 yards on seven carries.

So now, are we back to tailback by committee?

When asked that very question after Tuesday’s practice, Kiffin replied, “I did that because Marc put the ball on the ground. You never know when you’re going to get your chance, and Allen got it because Marc put the ball on the ground, and he made the most of it.

"Now he’s made it a very close competition and we’ve got to see. We’ll figure it out throughout the week.”

And how is Kiffin planning to do that?

“We’re going to go through the week and give them some shots,” Kiffin said.  “We alternated all three of those guys, with Marc and Allen with the ones and twos, and Dillon was with his normal mixture of stuff. We’ll see how they go throughout the week.”

Hm?  Sounds like a committee to me.  Well, at least the quarterback spot is set.  I mean Barkley’s the guy.  He can do no wrong, right?

“We’re getting casual with the ball,” Kiffin chided.  “It’s frustrating today. Sometimes they’re going to happen. The ball is going to get tipped or the guy is going to miss a protection. But when you force a ball, like the one out here today towards the end, there’s no excuse for that.

"That’s something that from day one, our goal has been to improve on. With the 15-14 ratio he had last year, we’ve improved on that, but we have to keep improving, so Saturday doesn’t happen again.”

But what if it does?

Oh, that’s right.  This week’s opponent is Washington State.  No problem.  USC will finally have their complete game, and, hopefully, their identity crisis will be over once and for all.

Don’t bet on it.