USC Football: 5 Questions Heading into Bye Week
USC defeated the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night, 48-41, to improve to 4-1 on the season, and 2-1 on its Pac-12 schedule.
Next week the Trojans will take a breather in their bye week before heading to AT&T Park in San Francisco to take on California.
Although USC is 4-1, its record is not indicative of the the struggles it has gone through.
The Trojans have been a pretty one-dimensional team with Matt Barkley having a sensational year at quarterback. His two main targets, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods, have been unbelievable. Lee is showing he's going to be a threat for the Trojans for the next few years. Woods is having a record-breaking season.
That being said, the Trojans have numerous questions that need to be addressed during the bye week.
Here are the five biggest ones.
1. Will They Develop Any Sort of Secondary Defense?
USC's defense looked pretty solid in the first three games of the season. However, in the last two games they've allowed more than 40 points. Granted, turnovers at Arizona State led to most of the points last week, but more was expected of this defense against Arizona.
The Trojans front seven has been relatively okay with Nick Perry and DeJohn Harris bringing the heat. However, the secondary has been atrocious at times.
Despite picking off Arizona's Nick Foles twice on Saturday, the Trojans allowed 41 points to the Wildcats. Last week at Arizona State, up-and-coming quarterback Brock Osweiler went off for two touchdowns and 223 yards. He also had a 78.1 percent completion percentage. This week, Arizona's Foles threw for four touchdowns and had a 77.4 percent completion percentage.
If the Trojans are letting Arizona and Arizona State pass all over them, what's going to happen when they face Andrew Luck about a month from now?
The Trojans secondary has been immensely inconsistent. It seems like when a quarterback gets a few completions on them, they lose all confidence and it becomes extremely easy to score on them. This needs to change.
2. Can Marc Tyler Be More Consistent?
Thankfully because of Curtis McNeal the entire running game hasn't been inconsistent week after week. Whenever Tyler struggles, McNeal steps it up like he did today with a touchdown and 75 yards in only seven carries.
However, the starting senior tailback is expected to do more. He has been ridiculously inconsistent. After not playing in Minnesota, he put up a great performance against Utah. Then, he was almost invisible against Syracuse.
After that, the Arizona State game pretty much summed up his season. After a very slow start in the first half, Tyler ended up running 146 yards with a touchdown because of a strong second half. However, a costly fumble he made was a key turnover that ended up giving the Sun Devils the win.
This week against Arizona, Tyler was fairly mediocre at best.
It's been a rough season for him despite the fact that he's had several bright moments. It's important for Tyler to be consistent because USC's defense has been suspect at times. And if Tyler can run the ball well, the Trojans can eat time off the clock and prevent their opponents to get the ball back.
This is how they're going to beat an Oregon or a Stanford.
3. Which USC Team Will Show Up in Road Games?
Let's face it. Despite the margin of the score, the Arizona State loss was a winnable game. They fought them close but eventually the Arizona heat and the crowd got to the Trojans. This was evidenced by Barkley's poor decision to throw off-balanced and have his throw picked off for a touchdown.
More road tests await after the bye week. The Trojans play the Cal Bears in two weeks and then Notre Dame the following week. Once again, these are winnable games that USC can take if it focuses, limits turnovers and plays smart without taking dumb penalties.
It'll also be interesting to see how Barkley plays in colder weather up in South Bend since he generally plays in warm climates.
If USC plays the same way at home on the road, it'll win plenty of games away from the Coliseum.
4. Will the Injury Bug Eventually Hit the Trojans?
During spring practices, it was amazing how many Trojans were hurt.
So many players were hurt that they couldn't do a proper scrimmage. They had do an offense versus defense scrimmage.
This year, the Trojans have surprisingly stayed healthy. Their key players are all still on the field and this is good to see.
That being said, this is sports. Injuries can strike at any moment and players can start dropping like flies instantly. USC is blessed to be more of a speed team rather than a physical team. So, it's more difficult for its players to get hurt because it's not a ground-and-pound team.
However, as the schedule gets tougher and the Trojans play against more difficult teams like Oregon, Stanford and Notre Dame, it's only natural that emotions will run higher. When the emotion runs higher, it's more likely that an opposing players lays one out on a Trojan causing him to get injured.
It'll be interesting to see that dynamic.
Hopefully the Trojans stay healthy so they can continue their success on the field.
5. How Far Can Matt Barkley Carry the Trojans?
At the end of the day, the number of wins the Trojans get will depend on how far Barkley can carry the team.
He's been absolutely remarkable and has shown in many instances that he is NFL-ready. He and Robert Woods have provided an unstoppable threat that can't be limited. Woods is on pace for a record breaking season and even freshman Marqise Lee has been an up-and-coming threat.
The Barkley-Woods Show can carry USC to 10 wins and beyond. No team has been able to stop that combination yet. The Trojan losses can't be put on Barkley and his receivers at all.
That being said, Barkley will need help from his teammates on defense and in the trenches on the offensive line to be able to maximize his ability to win 10 games this season. Whether he gets that help or not is a question that won't be answered until after the bye week.