USC Football: What's Next?

Derek HartCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2009

That was a mighty impressive performance that the USC Trojan football team gave at the Rose Bowl yesterday.

And this is coming from an alum of their bitter cross-town rival!

It was a true coming-out party for Mark Sanchez: He became the third quarterback in Rose Bowl history to throw for over 400 yards. He threw four touchdowns and probably could've beaten a number of NFL defenses.

Not to mention the usual domination of their No. 1 rated defense; after 'SC scored 24 points in the second quarter to take a 31-7 lead on a team that hadn't given up that many points all year,  I thought the game was over.

Much kudos to those Nittany Lions for fighting and making a game out of it in the fourth quarter.

If I were a USC alum, I would be at least a bit miffed to think that if it were not for the Oregon State University Beavers, those Trojans would be in Miami playing for the national championship this coming Jan. 8.

Having said that, USC students, alumni, and fans need to be fervently praying for the next two weeks.

After the Trojans' 28-7 win over UCLA on Dec. 6, I was telling people that no way was Sanchez going to go to the NFL Draft. Good as he was against the Bruins, I didn't feel he was ready.

After his performance against Penn State, his NFL stock went up.

WAY up.


I now feel the chances of him declaring for the draft are 50-50; he would almost definitely be a first-round pick, high second round at worst.

And that may very well spell a bit of trouble for the Trojan Family if he does leave. Here's why...

Out of the 11 players on USC's vaunted defense, eight of them were seniors who played their last game as Trojans last night. Add to that the fact that All-American safety Taylor Mays is next to a sure lock to declare. That makes NINE out of 11 guys whom Pete Carroll has to replace...and guess what?

You CANNOT replace a Clay Matthews.

You CANNOT replace a Fili Moala.

You CANNOT replace a Kyle Moore.

You CANNOT replace a Brian Cushing.


Perhaps if only three or four of those guys were leaving, the Trojans could maintain that same high level of defensive performance that they enjoyed this season.

But replacing nine top-flight guys at once is too much for ANY team. I don't care how good the team is or how many five-star recruits you have to take their place.

In short, USC's defense will experience a drop-off in 2009. They will be good due to sheer talent, but they will be scored upon.

And you heard it here first.

For the Trojans to maintain their dominance and contend for a national championship in 2009, the offense will have to carry the load. Just like the defense did this year.

That's why it's extremely imperative for USC and their fans that Sanchez returns next year.

If he does, the Trojans will have a very good chance to be in the Rose Bowl again. Not as the Pac-10 champions, but as one of the two teams in the BCS National Championship game, which will be in Pasadena next season.

Just expect a lot of 38-31 games—and for the Trojans to have the 38 90 percent of the time.

If he doesn't and opts for the NFL's millions, then 'SC, while still a favorite for a Pac-10 title, will have to fight it out with schools like Oregon and California, because I honestly don't see Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain, Sanchez's backups, performing at his level. 

That's the way I see it; will Sanchez return for his last season in Troy?

That's the No. 1 question faced by the Trojan family.

I suppose we'll find out in the next two weeks.