USC vs. Stanford: Keys to the Game

Amy Lamare@GridironGoddessSenior Analyst INovember 13, 2009

So yeah, USC vs. Stanford.  I can’t say I’m looking forward to this game. In fact, I dread it.

I am about as big a Trojan fan as they come. My car’s license plates are LOVSCFB (Love SC football). I passionately  rooted for my team throughout the dark days known as the 1990s. I plotted ways to take Paul Hackett out. Anything to help my Trojans. So it pains me to say this, but: We very well could lose this game.  I would not be surprised if we do.

We’ve been riddled with injuries. We have no true team leadership. We’ve played six of our nine games on the road. We’ve played five ranked opponents.  We now come home to the Coliseum to face Stanford. And we’re beaten up. And the rose colored glasses have been ripped from the eyes of both fans and players alike.

We face Stanford, who has handed USC its last three losses in the Coliseum and is coming off a big win over Oregon.  However, we have one big fat advantage going into this game:  Some of the key injuries that have hampered the Trojans all season are healing.  The biggest advantage for the Trojans is the return of the powerful and dynamic fullback Stanley Havili.

Havili gives the offense a big boost in firepower and playmaking. Tight end Anthony McCoy is expected to play this weekend. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and defensive end Everson Griffin return and look to restore some of the power to their Trojan team that was lacking last week against ASU.

WR Damian Williams is still doubtful for Saturday, which could present an issue for this young offense. Center Kristofer O’Dowd is still out.  USC is starting true freshman Devon Kennard at strongside linebacker. You can’t underestimate the loss of Williams, as he’s been the most consistent play maker for Matt Barkley. The biggest evidence of chemistry on this Trojan team is between Barkley and Williams.

The Trojans are not lacking in talent or depth. They never are. But where this 2009 team differs from other Trojan teams of the Pete Carroll era is in discipline and chemistry. Last week at ASU the Trojans had nine penalties for 98 yards. That’s inexcusable. Where is the leadership on this team?  Surely the revolving door on the coaching staff can’t help (and will be addressed in a future post).  QB Matt Barkley is 19 years old.  Basically, Trojan fans are spoiled and this is a rebuilding year that has been nearly a decade in the making.

On Twitter last night, a friend asked me if Carroll has hit the end of his prime. I don’t believe he has. He’s only been at USC since 2001. I believe the true problem lies in the new coaching staff.  Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates is an NFL guy and has sucked calling plays for the Trojans. It makes one wonder if he’s reviewed the tapes from 2001-2008. Because this 2009 offense is not a Trojan offense. Rocky Seto, the defensive coordinator, has some truly odd schemes going this year. Odd and ineffective.

I said last week that this Trojan team bore an eerie resemblance to the Paul Hackett teams of a decade ago. And for any Trojan fan that lived through that dark era in history, it was enough to make you sick. But this isn’t a Paul Hackett coached team. It’s a Pete Carroll team. We don’t call him Big Balls Pete for nothing.

Can we win this game? Of Course We Can. The only thing beating the Trojans right now is themselves. The penalties, the lack of chemistry and discipline, the anemic play calling, and the injuries.  We have the talent.  We’re just lacking in experience.

I predict it will be a close one in the Coliseum on Saturday. It’s Homecoming for USC, and I really don’t see this team dropping a game at home especially on Homecoming. Look for another ugly win by the Trojans.

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(This post was originally posted to Buster Sports )

-Your Gridiron Goddess