With each passing week, the peanut gallery criticizing Lane Kiffin gets smaller and it is for good reason.
The Trojans have continually improved in every phase of the game. As one of the original critics, I give Kiffin and his coaching staff tremendous credit for properly focusing the Trojans despite not having a bowl to play for and operating with a thin roster.
Even the much maligned defense is starting to turn it around and take some of the pressure off the offense. Besides taking the offense to another level and allowing one running back to have the bulk of the carries, the coaching staff has the team playing disciplined football which has not been the case for the last two seasons. Trojan fans should be pleased with what they have seen. Though Kiffin still needs a few more PR lessons, I have come to appreciate Kiffin’s frank and truthful demeanor concerning players and when he assesses his own coaching. Ultimately, I believe a coach deserves a full two years of coaching before being judged but at this point Kiffin’s “mid-term” grades are pretty strong and that is coming from a critic…
The next test for Kiffin: The Trojans face a classic trap game in a difficult place to play against a team that has been underwhelming but possesses the talent and coaching to hand USC a loss before the Trojans take on arch rivals Notre Dame and UCLA. Kiffin has admitted that practice has not been to his liking this week and this is a big test for him to make sure the Trojans continue to stay focused and disciplined.
Robert Woods…can we have an encore?: Earlier in the season, I proclaimed that Robert Woods might become the best Wide Receiver at USC since Keyshawn Johnson. A pretty big statement considering that would put him above Dwayne Jarrett, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert and Damian Williams. I still stand by that statement due to his speed, precise route running and coach-ability. However, he has struggled lately do illness and being nicked up. Kiffin says he’s 100 percent and “looks like a normal receiver” whose “burst” seems to be back. With him being 100% , hopefully he can finish the season the way he played earlier in the year. The Trojans will need it to finish the season with a 5 game winning streak…
Barkley’s game management continues to improve: While playing with the lead against Arizona, quarterback Matt Barkley sustained drives, didn’t force any passes and committed only one turnover which was Tight End Jordan Cameron’s fault. “I thought he managed the game extremely well,” Kiffin said Sunday. Kiffin said the second half felt like a “four-minute drill” – the football term for the end-game sequence when a team tries to run out the clock.
Two keys to the Oregon State game: #1- Contain the Beavers star running back Jacquizz Rogers and put the game in the hands of inconsistent sophomore QB Ryan Katz. Unfortunately, USC hasn’t controlled Rogers in the previous two meetings where he racked up 299 yards rushing. Rogers loves to run up the middle and cut-back into open space which is a weakness for the Trojans defense. Look for Beavers Head Coach Mike Riley to dink and dunk early in the passing game to try and keep the Trojan Linebackers off-balance and then attack then Trojans right up the middle. If the defensive line is successful in containing Rogers, the Trojans will walk out of Corvallis with a victory. The Beavers passing game was dealt a severe blow a few weeks ago when star Wide Receiver James Rogers, the brother of Jacquizz, suffered a season ending injury. The Beavs are just 1-3 since losing him and defenses are loading up against Quizz and forcing Katz to beat them. OSU’s first-year starter has not passed for more than 206 yards in a game since losing the elder Rodgers.
#2- Continue to run Tyler: The Beavers rank seventh in the Pac-10 in run defense and with bad weather predicted, USC will need to have a successful running attack. The Trojan offensive line should be able to wear down the Beavers and if Tyler can get into a rhythm he should be able to rip off some solid runs. With the weather potentially being a factor, it will be tough for Barkley to get into a groove so the run game takes on even more important role.
Fun fact about Jacquizz Rogers: Super Running Back Jacquizz Rodgers has never fumbled in a regular season college football game…
Fun Fact Part II: Linebacker Devon Kennard with a 3.37 GPA in communications was the only Trojan to make the All-Pac-10 Academic Team. Matt Barkley, Khaled Holmes and Michael Reardon all earned Honorable Mention selections .
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!