Where Does USC Go From Here?
It is the question all USC fans will be asking this week.
Where do the Trojans go from here?
Despite all the gloom following the 53-32 loss to as-good-as-advertised Oregon, let’s not forget that was a helluva football game for 49 minutes. It was 32-29 USC with 26 minutes to play, and it’s no disgrace going toe-to-toe with the nation’s best team, even if the Ducks did score the final 24 points.
That’s not meant to take anything away from Oregon. The Ducks have clearly supplanted USC as the class of the Pac-10, and Lane Kiffin now will have his hands full trying to motivate the Trojans to play hard the rest of the season. Other than pride, there is really nothing to play for, although finishing with a better record than last year’s 9-4 might qualify.
At 5-3 now, that goal doesn’t look encouraging. If Kiffin’s kids aren’t flat this week against Arizona State it will be an upset, and then there are two imposing games on the road with Arizona and Oregon State.
In the meantime, it would be wise to examine the fallout from that semi-shootout with the Ducks. Here is what the Trojans should understand:
1. The difference in the game wasn’t Oregon’s offense. It was the Ducks’ defense. Chip Kelly’s defenders stopped the run, pressured quarterback Matt Barkley and beat up receivers Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods. USC’s defense, meanwhile, played hard but really couldn’t accomplish any of the above.
2. Fatigue was a major factor. Oregon wears down everybody, so it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but you could definitely see the effects in the fourth quarter.
3. Recruiting-wise, Kiffin, Ed Orgeron and the staff should concentrate on defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. There just aren’t enough quality athletes on defense now, and the blame for that belongs to Pete Carroll and his former assistants, not Kiffin.
4. Kelly deserves all the kudos he is getting from around the country. The offense and the tempo he has created are extraordinary, and in Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Jeff Maehl he has the perfect components for his pistol scheme. Not only that, the guy apparently knows a few things about defense, too.
5. USC isn’t that far away from being a Top 20 team again. The offense, with Barkley, Woods and eventually Dillon Baxter, has great potential and there are already a slew of new skill players due next year. The key will be to improve the defense and to make critical recruiting decisions because of the NCAA sanction limits.
So what about the rest of 2010?
Well, let’s just say young Mr. Kiffin has a real challenge on his hands.
Some quick hits from another busy football and baseball weekend:
Whatever happens the rest of the way in the World Series, the Giants now become the National League favorites in 2011 with that brilliant young pitching staff . . .
If the AFC is supposed to be so much better, what happened to the Jets and Steelers this past weekend against NFC teams? . . .
The BCS title game now looks like Oregon vs. the Auburn-Alabama winner, with Boise State again left out in the Northwest cold . . .
I’d be stunned if Cliff Lee doesn’t come up big in Game 5 for the Rangers. Trouble is, Tim Lincecum could be just as good . . .
The Packers’ Clay Matthews Jr. is the best defensive player in the NFL now. Period . . .
Arizona at Stanford this week will be a very intriguing Pac-10 game, especially if quarterback Nick Foles plays for the Wildcats . . .
About the only good thing to come out of the UCLA-Arizona game for the Bruins is the fact quarterback Richard Brehaut throws a nice deep ball . . .
How much longer can Jerry Jones go without making a coaching change in Dallas? It’s a wonder Wade Phillips has lasted this long . . .
I know Notre Dame fans are lighting up message boards around the country in protest, but I’m sorry, after the tragic accident that occurred on campus last week, I give the Irish the pass on that loss to Tulsa . . .
Some things are just bigger than losing football games . . .
— STEVE BISHEFF