The right side of the USC offensive line is vulnerable. Offensive tackle Winston Justice is a sophomore and offensive guard Fred Matua is a redshirt freshman. Both struggled in pass rush blocking last week. This weakness is significant because it is quarterback Matt Leinart's blindside.
More than any other position, BYU defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall's defense attacks the guards. Matua had a poor game against Auburn. Not only was he often physically overmatched, but he also made mental mistakes galore. When I watched a BYU practice before the season, Mendenhall was killing our quarterback by blitzing David Nixon right through the right guard position. Don't be surprised to see something similar tomorrow.
Justice, though better than Matua, also had his problems. He missed a lot of time in spring and fall practice because of injuries and off-the-field problems. It seems to have left him rusty.
Most flaws weren't visible at game speed because USC used 3 step drops almost exclusively. But watching on tape, they were there. I expect Bronco to jump routes early and force USC to get aggressive in their gameplan. If the OL breaks down and Leinart starts getting hit from behind, this game could look like the BYU/NM and NM/UCLA games of last year where the QB hadn't a clue what to do.
The other glaring weakness of the USC offense is the blocking ability of the TE, FB, and RBs. Each is young and make better matadors than pass blockers. Look for Bronco to exploit this through blitzes and formations that will pit our best pass rushers against USC weaker blockers.
USC is a solid defensive ball club and it all starts up front. Matt Berry will not consistently have time to throw. I don't care how well the Cougar offensive line plays, Berry is going to get sacked a few times because the Trojans front is that good. This will be a necessary evil. Rather than get conservative, Berry must hold onto the ball and throw it down the field.
Having seen both units, I think Georgia Tech has a comparable, possibly better, secondary than USC – and we had little problem getting open last week.
It's not because the Trojans doesn't have athletes; it's simply that our patterns are complex and the USC secondary doesn't have a lot of experience. It won't help that starters Darnell Bing and Marcell Allmond have foot/ankle injuries. We need to attack the USC secondary.
Against the run, it is well documented that USC slants up front. The best way to combat this is to trap block. The problem is that BYU is one of the worst trap blocking teams I've ever seen. So instead of moving our offensive linemen, the Cougars should go straight ahead and shoot for the 3-4 yard gainers. I also expect short passes to Taufui Vakapuna, Naufahi Tahi and Reynaldo Brathwaite that will look like passes, but serve the purpose of a run in maintaining possession while improving down and distance.
Ball control is very important this game. The occasional three-and-out won't hurt us, but fumbles and interceptions will.
BYU has a shot. USC is very good and they won't beat themselves, but they don't enjoy enough of a talent surplus that they can just run us off the field. USC will hit us and we need to come back harder.
The Cougars must keep penalties to a minimum and they must show USC physically they will have to earn every yard they get.
I'm confident BYU head coach Gary Crowton will have them on their heels. The Cougars just need to execute. I can't wait to see it.
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