Let me preface by saying that I know this year’s Trojans are going to reload despite their players drafted in the first and second rounds. They need new offensive and defensive lines. Gone is Fred Davis, John David Booty, and Chauncey Washington. Somehow, someway, USC is still scary. Message boards (Scout and Bucknuts) ring with disenfranchised Ohio State fans thinking their team should be beaten soundly by USC. Reasons to be scared:
Big Game Record
Scary: You may not know this, but USC doesn’t lose big games. The only man to overcome USC was Vince Young (notice I didn’t say Texas, and it might not have been if Reggie Bush didn’t pitch a sure 50-yard run away). Rose Bowls? No sweat, ask Michigan and Illinois. Out of conference? Arkansas, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, and Auburn want their dignity back. Oklahoma was crushed by USC. Pete Carroll isn’t afraid to take chances and keep pushing (up the score).
Reason for Optimism: This is a new team that has to play its biggest game of the year after playing 1 lowly team (Virginia) compared to OSU’s 2 lowly games (YSU, Ohio). That means Ohio State gets to play in the weeks up to a big game. USC has been beatable; witness Oregon State, UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon (the Ducks had Dennis Dixon at the time). In fact, that 13-9 loss to UCLA could have been the biggest game yet and they managed three field goals in the final game of the season, against UCLA. It was UCLA, yet no one ever said, “Pete Carroll got out coached by Karl Dorrell.” Thou shalt not.
Speed & Athleticism
Scary: This isn’t straight line 40-yard or 100m running. USC didn’t get to where it’s at without getting some athletes. Hell, their fullback (Stanley Havili) was highly rated running back. There are a lot of big, fast guys. Their receivers, tight ends, and running backs know how to get the ball and know what to do with it. Look at McKnight’s dropped-lateral-for-60-yard-gain the Rose Bowl; he saw the field and ran. Yards after catch is a given. I’m not sure an Ohio State player saw open space last year besides Beanie Wells.
Reason for Optimism: The games USC lost haven’t been 42-39 shootouts. Last year, USC lost to Oregon 28-21 and lost to Stanford 24-21. Sanchez didn’t look unbeatable even with last year’s players, but then again Chris Leak, Juice Williams, and Matt Flynn only had to show up and they threw for 4 touchdowns. So far, Ohio State has yet to give up a big play in 2 years. Hopefully DC Jim Heacock and his henchmen will find a happy medium.
Scary: Rey Malauga and Brian Cushing. They will hit you, and they will do it illegally. Helmet to helmet is Rey Rey’s specialty, ask any QB to play against them. But it’s USC, thus ESPN think it looks frickin sweeeet! Beyond that, they are actually really good linebackers. They’ve been able to make plays at or behind the line of scrimmage (OSU defense, take notes), but the defensive line is now reloaded. They take up a lot of space by just standing around, with both being right around 245-255lbs. Just ask JL - hopefully that’s a bad angle.
Reason for Optimism: If James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman are over-hyped, Rey Malauga and Brian Cushing are sitting in the next seats. All four will be taken in the first 2 rounds of the draft, so maybe they aren’t. OSU hasn’t been able to stop Florida and LSU, but USC hasn’t been able to stop Oregon (ok, pass) and Stanford. These guys haven’t been the Great Wall they’ve been made out to be and will now work with new guys in front of them. Rey looks mean but can get burned easily, while Cushing has a ton of potential but has been injured.
Taylor Mays & the Secondary
Scary: What do you do with a 6’3” athlete that can run a 4.3-4.4? Obviously, you stick him in at safety. Crap. Dude could be playing Nintendo out there against Boeckman, hunting down his ducks. He hits too. He’s like a Sean Taylor replica and we don’t have Maurice Clarett to strip the ball out of his hands. As for his cronies, OSU’s receivers had problems creating separation against LSU. They want the ball.
Reason for Optimism: Stay away. If it’s possible, I’m not sure. You have to go down field, just make sure it’s single coverage or he was caught looking in the backfield. I haven’t been blown away by Mays, as of yet. He’s not a head hunter out there, but we does break up passes. Illinois looked so bad against USC because they didn’t have a down field passing game, mainly because Juice isn’t good. When they finally did, it was too late, and USC knew it was coming.
Stable of Running Backs
Scary: USC is sitting on stockpile of 4 and 5 star running backs. It’s sick really. You think they’d have to be above the scholarship limit with the number of guys they have at some positions. You thought LSU was deep at RB, USC is deeper. They’ve got big, powerful guys and big, fast guys and little, fast guys. It’s a who’s who of top running backs that all want to prove they are the next LenDale White or Reggie Bush.
Reason for Optimism: Name more than 2 running backs on the USC. Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson? After that? There’s a big difference between being ridiculously stacked and just ridiculous. While the whole probably is better than OSU, it doesn’t count if they don’t ever get the ball. 2 touches here and another there is no way to become a premier back. Ohio State has let a team average 5 ypc since probably 2004. Assuming the defensive line can produce, Ohio State does be able to stop most inside and outside runs, but laterals and screens could be a challenge.
Pete Carroll and His Staff
Scary: All of the above is the result of Pete Carroll. Even the coordinators are the result of Carroll. He doesn’t own one of the best records in college football by just surfing everyday. He likes bells and whistles and yelling and jumping and being one of the guys. He frightens me because you always know you are going to get a good game. I think the term ‘adjustments’ is overused, but the USC staff seems to know what to do and when to do it (witness Michigan v. USC Rose Bowl). If USC walked into a game and got blown out 41-14 or 38-24, the earth might fall off course and drift away from the sun, it’s that monumental. It happened to Ohio State, with barely a peep from the players or coaching staff.
Reason for Optimism: They are due, right? It’s USC’s time to have a ‘what the hell?’ moment and I’m not talking an embarrassing loss to a team like Stanford. I guess UCLA counted as a big game, but it was only 13-9. It wasn’t a blowout like Oklahoma or Ohio State have faced. USC needs a big game meltdown and it needs to happen in Southern California, and what better team to do it than the Buckeyes. Last year was the ‘best team of all time’ and they managed to drop 2 games and not really execute any blowouts until the end of the season. This year is a new team that could be great, but is unproven. Ohio State also has a team that could be great, but is unproven, BUT has experience.
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