Earlier this week, here at Your Best 11, we called the Arizona game a great primer for the big Oregon-USC showdown. While the outcome was unexpected, the preview nature of the game revealed plenty about where the Trojans are heading into their contest with the Ducks.
They're not ready.
Yes, Marqise Lee, the stud receiver for the Trojans, had an amazing day. The sophomore caught 16 balls for 345 yards and two touchdowns. He added the two-point conversion that got the Trojans within three points to end the game. If you're keeping track of these things, Lee firmly put his stamp down as "the guy" on this USC team when it comes to who should be considered for the Heisman.
Unfortunately for Lee and quarterback Matt Barkley, neither of them will be getting much Heisman love this weekend, thanks to the porous Trojans defense. With their 39-36 victory, the Arizona Wildcats proved to the nation that the University of Southern California is not prepared to take on the Oregon Ducks. At least their defense is not ready.
Matt Scott and the up-tempo Rich Rodriguez offense started slowly, but after falling behind 28-13 were able to outscore the Trojans 26 to 15 in the final half of play. They did the scoring, and moving the football, in several different ways—all of which will be duplicated and exploited next weekend by the Ducks.
Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey and quarterback Scott both topped the 100-yard mark on the ground. This does not bode well for the Trojans against the three-headed rushing monster of Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota. USC's defense guessed instead of playing the zone-read and the read-option true to rules, and the Wildcats made them pay.
Through the air, the type of attack Oregon and Chip Kelly have been building this season, the Trojans surrendered 369 yards to the aforementioned Scott. The packaged plays were a killer. The screen game ate up the poor angles taken by Trojan defenders, and the vertical passing game caught defensive backs with their eyes in the backfield and gashed the University of Southern California.
Folks can get as upset as they want for the end-of-game sequence and the plays that ultimately didn't let the Trojans have a shot to tie or win the game. However, the fact is that USC should have never been locked into a dogfight with the Arizona Wildcats. At least not if they still wanted to be considered among the nation's elite.
This team has holes—and what Arizona exposed, Oregon is going to exploit. This week of practice, there is plenty of work to do. Angles on tackles need to be emphasized. The lost art of tackling must be re-learned. Assignment football has to take center stage. This week will be about fixing the gaping holes that Arizona showed the world before Oregon has time to run through them.