It was ugly, yet they dominated. The offense was only average, but the defense was extraordinary. The final score was not what they call "style points" for the ranking system; nonetheless, the Trojans of USC won another game in their typical 2008 style.
Memo to the college football world of writers, coaches, and fans: USC does not play the way you are used to seeing them play.
Their offense is a mere shadow of what it used to be. The defense though, is something you would see in a horror film... simply scary good.
For those Southern and East Coast fans who don't know too much about USC's team this year, which I know a lot of them don't because of how ESPN's coverage maps are for televised games, here are some impressive stats put up by the USC defense:
* USC's defense has allowed zero points in the last ten quarters.
* No opponent has gained over 200 yards of total offense in the past four games!
* In USC's five home games this year, they have outscored their opponents 180-16...three of those games were vs. ranked teams, two of which had offenses in the top 20!
*In six of USC's nine games this season, the opponent was held under ten points.
* In the last five games, USC has given up 13 points!
*In USC's nine games this season, they have allowed seven touchdowns! Four of the seven were in one game, their only loss of the season. That means USC has played eight other teams, three in the top 25 at the time, and allowed three touchdowns... I don't care if its a Pop Warner league, that is ridiculous!
* Last but not least, Cal, who averages over 150 yards a game on the ground, rushed the ball 27 times for 26 yards!
(Stats courtesy of ESPN)
USC put up over 400 yards of offense vs Cal last night and only gave up 165. They ran the ball very effectively on the Bears and even passed efficiently. Yet, the Trojans only put up 17 points, which is far below their season average.
The play-calling has been extremely cautious and rightfully so. I don't think USC is overly confident in Mark Sanchez, they won't say that, but the play-calling speaks for itself.
I have no doubt that Sanchez has the physical tools to be a great quarterback. He has a very strong arm as well as accurate arm. His biggest issue is decision-making. Thus, USC's conservative play-calling makes sense.
USC has a very good and big receiving crew. They have the best set of running backs in the nation, five or six 4-star or above recruits. The tight ends are young but above average. The offensive line is young to say the least, but have done a very good job in spite of their inexperience. How many top college teams can be as good as they are and not have one lineman over 300 pounds?
So, you maybe asking, why in the world does this team struggle on offense vs. any average or above average defense? I hate to blame it on coaching, but having watched every USC game for my entire life, the offensive coordinator has done a terrible job.
Steve Sarkisian is a solid young coach, but I am not sure how good of an offensive coordinator he is. He has a surplus of talent, yet he struggles to put up 20 points on Cal. Why? Easy, he doesn't go with what works.
Last night's game was a perfect example. C.J. Gable, a tremendous running back with smarts and a ton of speed, began the game running all over CAL's defense. In fact, he ran well the entire game...when he got the ball.
He had 10 carries for 79 yards, 7.9 yards per carry for all you mathematicians. So I ask you, why is he only getting the ball 10 times if he is running that effectively?
Instead, Sarkisian decided Stafon Johnson (who is another incredible running back) should get the ball 14 times. Problem is, he only ran for 60 yards.
So as I said above, he doesn't go with what works. In fact, I don't think Gable got more than two carries between the second quarter and the fourth quarter.
The tools are all there, the speed, the strength, and the coaching is all there. It is just a matter of coach Sarkisian sticking with USC's strengths during a game instead of relying on what he wants to work.
As mentioned earlier, this USC team is different from those of the past. No flashy offense, no big name offensive stars like Simpson, Allen, Bush, or Leinart. Instead, they have defensive stars like Maualuga, Cushing, and Mays leading the headlines.
If the fans, USC or not, are expecting every game to be 49-21 like the old USC teams, you are going to be disappointed.
This team plays hard-nosed, wild, and fun football. There is no team on a football field having more fun than a USC defense. Pete Carroll loves it, but a lot of America, including the poll voters and yearly haters, are less fond.
I am not suggesting by any means that USC is worthy of being including in the national title talk yet, because they're not, and the two undefeated teams in the major conferences are much more deserving. This team, though, is being overlooked as a great team for all the wrong reasons.
All I really know is this... it would sure be fun to watch a college football playoff system take place from mid December to the middle or end of January where we can truly find out how good any team is.
Don't discount this Trojans team just because they do it in an unconventional way... they are just as dominant as other years, it just happens to be on the other side of the ball in 2008.
It amuzes me when teams present and in the past like South Carolina, LSU, or Auburn are praised for a 13-6 win or a 17-14 battle; yet when USC wins 17-3 against a ranked opponent and has only allowed seven touchdowns all season... it isn't impressive anymore.
If the old saying is true, "Defense wins championships", then I guess USC is in good shape. On the other-hand, offense impresses voters and computers and you need those on your side to get the chance...