With the Rose Bowl fast approaching, I’ve been asked several questions by football fans that don’t follow USC closely. Many of them deal with the battle between USC’s pass defense and Penn State’s Daryll Clark.
Here are my (quite biased) answers to those questions:
There’s no denying it—Daryll Clark is one of the best passers USC will have faced this year. However, even if he remains at the top tier of that list, no passer yet has found a way to win against the USC Trojan defense.
The only team to win against USC (those damn Oregon State Beavers) accomplished a win with a gutsy five-foot-six running back named Jacquizz.
No quarterback has yet found a solution to the USC pass defense, which allows a meager 122 yards per game—a full 30 yards less than the next best statistical pass defense, New Mexico State.
USC leads the nation by 500 total yards allowed, an amazing feat considering that they are constantly nursing big leads, which should translate into passing situations for their opponents.
It’s even more amazing that they also have the fourth best rush defense. Daryll Clark is a good quarterback, but not a threat to this pass defense.
He has had a few big games, but besides that he is a lackluster passer, averaging 193 yard per game. Expect that figure to drop against the country’s No. 1 pass defense.
Also, although Daryll Clark is a very efficient passer (only four interceptions all year), expect him to throw at least one versus the Trojans, who are tied for ninth in interceptions.
Clark won’t be able to run for much either—Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing anchor a very good instinctual linebacking core that tends to stuff quarterback runs in the backfield. Even Terrell Pryor, a dynamic running quarterback, was limited to forty yards against this tough defense.
The one positive for Clark is that he won’t be sacked more than one or two times—the Trojans are not sack artists. However, their pass coverage is superb, and expect many incompletions and deflections by the likes of Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison.
Another member of the secondary to look out for is Drew McAllister. A true freshman, Drew leads the NCAA in interceptions per playing time. McAllister could gain some extra playing time due to his performance. If he does, watch for a big play from the promising freshman.
Penn State’s offense will be lucky to score more than 10 points—USC has allowed more than 10 points to only two teams, and tends to play up to more difficult opponents. When playing against teams that are currently ranked, USC allows only five points per game.
My prediction: Daryll Clark will be a non-factor as the Trojans win by a landslide, proving that they were once again cheated from a championship bid. USC 31, Penn State 7.