The Road Ahead for USC

USC isn’t doing it the easy way but if we don’t lose another game we can and will be contenders for the National Championship.

With five weeks left in the regular season USC probably has the toughest schedule in the country. Include the Pac-12 Championship game and eventual bowl game and USC could face four undefeated top 5 teams in its last seven games.

That’s good and bad. Good because it gives us a chance to compete for the championship based on the strength of our schedule. And bad because this is going to be a very steep, arduous uphill climb. It kind of makes the fact that we have a loss irrelevant because even if we had beaten Stanford and were still ranked number one, we’d have to climb the exact same daunting hill. The only difference is we can use a little outside help and we’re likely going to be underdogs in all these tough games. Being the underdog could work to our advantage if it gives our players extra motivation or causes our opponents to take us less seriously than if we were ranked #1.

As for the help we need, it’s more about rooting for teams rather than rooting against teams. Our best chance at climbing the polls is to beat Oregon and Notre Dame while they are undefeated. And if that happens we’d like to play an unbeaten Oregon State in the Pac-12 Championship. A lot of people think our goal is to beat Oregon twice, but what helps USC more is for Oregon State to beat Oregon then USC to beat an undefeated and highly ranked Oregon State in the Pac-12 Championship game.

I think the toughest game left on our schedule might be this week’s game against Arizona. This is a really dangerous game because the Wildcats are 4-3 and unranked so there is a risk USC won’t take them as seriously as they should. But Arizona’s record is very deceiving; they were barely edged out by 7th ranked Oregon State and barely lost to 17th ranked Stanford in overtime. So Arizona is a lot better than their record suggests. Arizona is so good that the Las Vegas line is moving in their favor. USC opened as an 8 point favorite but so many people bet on Arizona that the line is down to 6.5 points. That is a little surprising since USC is in the top 10 and Arizona isn’t ranked. But it tells you how good the Wildcats are on how tenuous USC’s ranking is but if we make it out of Arizona with a win we’ll be set to make a run for the championship.

I think the biggest hurdle USC has is themselves. USC is the most penalized team in the country and this lack of discipline is a killer against solid teams. It means one handed TD catches being called back. It means deep third down defensive stops turned into first downs in field goal range. It means punt returns taken from one end zone to the other being nullified. There are so many ways an untimely penalty can cost you the game; when you average ten per game it’s no wonder USC isn’t dominating the opposition like we should. We’re lucky all these penalties haven’t cost us more than one win but if we don’t fix this NOW it’s going to cost us several more wins.

We’ll learn a lot about the team this week. Look for Matt Barkley and the offense to keep rolling and build on the momentum from the Colorado game. Arizona’s quarterback ranks number four in the country in total passing yards so the defense probably won’t shut down the Wildcat offense but look for USC to control their passing game to give us a chance to win. And perhaps most importantly watch for a big reduction in penalties. And always #BE7IEVE!

Fight On!

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4 Responses to “The Road Ahead for USC”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Loved your comment about what an arduous, uphill climb it will be to get back into National Championship contention regardless of the early loss at the Farm. SC has a long road ahead these next five weeks, but that road would’ve been even harder had they been undefeated.

    There should be considerably less pressure on the Trojans when they face Oregon and Notre Dame being that those teams could be undefeated while SC will not be. That type of pressure was displayed by the Green Bay last season when they were 15-0 and lost to the lowly Chiefs (then got run off the field by the eventual champion Giants in a home playoff game at Lambeau Field).

    SC should be thankful it took a loss early because winning out is tough but a lot less so now that it won’t be “undefeated USC vs. undefeated Oregon” or “undefeated Notre Dame.” Win out and SC should make it to the title game so long as Kansas State doesn’t go undefeated (SEC outside of Alabama will likely beat each other up too much to put two teams in again).

    And not overlooking Arizona, but all non-Pac-12 fans obviously are, so this is a must-win for USC. Whether it’s pounding the rock (I anticipate that being the game plan this Saturday) and playing tough D or airing it out in a track meet, I think you’re spot on about us finding out what kind of team SC is this Saturday. Beat the Wildcats!

  2. Reilly McHugh Says:

    Tough road indeed! Hopefully our guys can stay focused and keep their eye on the prize. Were going to need the D to keep taking the ball away the way they have thus far, especially these next two weeks. Fight on!

    • uscpsycho Says:

      Agree about the turnovers. That’s been a pleasant surprise. One of the biggest predictors of victory in a football game is which team forces the most turnovers. If we keep the turnovers coming at this pace we should keep winning games. We just need to get the penalty situation in check because they neutralize a lot of the good things we’re doing.

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