If all you did was look at the newly released AP poll and didn’t see the Trojans 27-6 victory over Washington State you would have thought they put together a masterful performance. I cannot recall the last time a team moved up 5 spots in the AP poll after beating a clearly inferior team by less than half of the posted point spread.
The now #7 ranked Trojans obviously benefited from teams ahead of them in the poll losing and jumping ahead 20-0 in the 1st quarter of a late night game that pollsters promptly stopped watching.
A close look at the Trojans performance against the Cougars clearly shows that USC is extremely lucky to be ranked 7th in the country. The Trojans outscored a very limited and talentless Cougar team 7-6 in the final 3 quarters of play and lost the time of possession battle. This is the same team USC beat 69-0 last year in Pullman. The Trojans committed 13 penalties for 115 yards (7 penalties in the 1st quarter), fumbled 3 times and were turned away twice on the goal line. USC was short on a 38 yard field goal attempt and are still having issues with Special Teams play even though Jake Harfman looks like he will be a solid punter.
(It is not all bad, some positive thoughts on the offense after the jump!)
If the Trojans continue to play undisciplined while showing no signs of making offensive adjustments during a game, the Trojans will be lucky to be ranked in the top 20 a month from now with one of the toughest 4 game stretches in the Pete Carroll era right in front of them. The defense will be able to keep them in games but the offense and special teams has to step up in a big way for the Trojans to have any chance of going undefeated during this difficult stretch of games.
Though the Trojans did not put together a marquee performance, the offense definitely came to life with Matt Barkley under center. Despite a bruised shoulder, Barkley made some very good mid to deep throws and definitely showed he is the leader of the offense. The Trojans finally attacked the middle of the field and the Tight End was more involved and pronounced. The Trojans should have had another touchdown had Tight End Rhett Ellison caught a well delivered ball on 4th and goal in the third quarter.
The offense was definitely less predictable in the 1st quarter and they will need to continue that trend against Cal. The progress Barkley made this week goes out the window if an ultra conservative game plan is used. The offensive coaches will also need to improve on in-game adjustments and play calling since offensive production is beginning to decay after the 1st quarter.
Finally, It is clear that Allen Bradford deserves to be the running back that rotates with Joe McKnight. He is the only back that truly runs with an authorative straight ahead style. Bradford also made a great block allowing Barkley to throw a long touchdown pass.