The Cougars will have to force multiple turnovers while playing their most inspired football for the full 60 minutes to give themselves a chance against the Trojans.
Don't blame the Colorado State Rams football team for walking a little hunched during this past week. It's just the weight of 49 unanswered points they received as a door prize for paying a visit to the Coliseum last Saturday.
As the score indicates, the Trojans dominated the Rams in all facets of the game. It wasn't a shock that USC came out with the victory, but what was surprising and, for Trojan fans exciting, was the way this team jelled and played with such poise and understanding of the game. You'd have thought the Trojans were gearing up for bowl week instead of still trying to work out the kinks in the second game of the season.
While piling up over 550 yards of total offense (322 via the footwork of LenDale White, Reggie Bush and friends) causing six turnovers (one returned for a touchdown) and holding the Rams to only 48 rushing yards, what really stood out about the game was that the Trojans were still dominating the action with their third and fourth stringers.
This Trojan team is as deep and fast as any team in the nation, which is why they'll be lining up for the third successive game in 2004 with that little No. 1 ranking next to their name.
No. 11 - Matt Leinart
The Heisman Trophy frontrunner at this early stage in the season, Matt Leinart is arguably the most important player on the nation's best team. Leinart, now in his second season as the team's signal caller, has become such a steady and productive presence under center that a 230 yard, 2 touchdowns, 0 interception day goes largely unnoticed by fans and media alike.
He knows he is surrounded by talented playmakers and takes advantage of this fact by very rarely forcing the ball. Leinart will always take what's given and is surprisingly quick once out in the open field. A passionate student of the game, Leinart has shown improvement each week he has started as the Trojan quarterback. The Cougars won't be seeing the same Leinart whom they intercepted three times in last year's game.
No. 21 - LenDale White:
Every aspect of LenDale White's game can be described simply as "solid." At 6-2, 235 pounds with quickness that defies his stature, White can be an absolute menace to opposing defenses whether he's pounding between the tackles or slipping around the outside.
He used an 8.8 yards per carry average against Colorado State to rack up 123 yards rushing and find the end zone three times. White also has great hands out of the backfield and will pick up any blitzing bodies coming across the line of scrimmage.
No. 5 - Reggie Bush:
Reggie Bush is a special kind of player. He seems to do things that defy both logic and gravity. He puts so much pressure on a defense that he's often simply used as a decoy to open up the entire opposite side of the field.
One player cannot be assigned to cover Bush because that player has yet to be genetically engineered. In a pedestrian performance (by his standards) against Colorado State, Bush ran the ball 12 times for 84 yards and returned the only Ram kickoff of the game 39 yards out of the end zone.
Bush is Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow's most dangerous weapon, and on Saturday, you'll want to keep your eyes on No. 5. Bring your cameras and get a picture of him if you can … ours are all blurry.
No. 2 - Steve Smith:
Steve Smith spent a full year under the tutelage of Trojan standout receivers Mike Williams and Keary Colbert in 2003 and is looking to make 2004 his breakout season as the team's primary receiving threat.
After the game against Virginia Tech, where the loss of those two wide-outs from last year's team was blatantly evident, Smith did his best to step up in the Colorado State game and he delivered. He hauled in eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. But what Smith does that sets him apart from so many other wide receivers is block. He can be constantly counted on to keep his man away from the play and helps open up those huge holes for the talented running backs.
No. 82 - Chris McFoy:
Another young receiver for the Trojans is Chris McFoy. While he probably won't look to burn the defense with deep speed, McFoy has shown in the first couple of games that he can settle into the middle of the field and work effectively just under the safeties. McFoy was able to repress the nerves he showed in his first start at Virginia Tech and made solid contributions in the Trojan win against Colorado State. He caught four passes for 59 yards and is beginning to rely on the skills he has to become more comfortable as a go-to player in the Trojan offense.
No. 8 - Dwayne Jarrett:
While obviously a gifted player, Dwayne Jarrett has been something of a project for the Trojans during this young season. In the season's first two games, Jarrett has shown both his age as well as abundant talent. He's dropped a few passes, no doubt attributed to nerves and looking to do more than he needs to do, but he also showed what he's capable of doing, using all 6-5 of himself to go up and acrobatically grab a touchdown pass in between two Ram defenders. Trojan fans and coaches alike expect nothing but good things from this blossoming star.
No. 81 - Alex Holmes:
The Trojans haven't used the tight end position much in passing situations during this season, but they've got a good one in Alex Holmes. He'll catch anything within reason and has the ability to get open against any coverage. He's also an exceptional blocker.
The Trojan offensive line, while relatively inexperienced, came together nicely in their win against Colorado State. From left to right, they read: No. 75 Kyle Williams; No. 73 John Drake; No. 67 Ryan Kalil; No. 51 Fred Matua; and No. 71 Taitusi Lutui.
It appeared they were given one order against the Rams and it was simply to knock over the man in front of them. Three hundred and twenty-two rushing yards later, I'm guessing their dinner bill was taken care of.
If there's a better defensive line in college football, I've yet to see it. The Trojans have at least eight quality players they can plug in anywhere on the defensive front.
The starters on the outside are No. 90 Frostee Rucker and No. 96 Lawrence Jackson. Rucker has both the quickness to get around any tackle as well as the strength to get back inside and make a tackle through a blocker.
No. 54 Jeff Schweiger will also see plenty of playing time at defensive end. Schweiger has undoubtedly made the biggest impact of any of the incoming freshman for the Trojans in the first two games. He's got a motor that never quits combined with amazing speed and technique that has already garnered him two sacks and a forced fumble.
On the inside of the line are All-American candidates, No. 84 Shaun Cody and No. 99 Mike Patterson. The Trojan defensive front is able to generate a significant pass rush, getting to the quarterback, and often times knocking the ball loose.
At linebacker for the Trojans are a group of three outstanding overachievers. In the middle is No. 58 Lofa Tatupu. He claimed the spot with his play last year, as he was the rock in the middle of a stifling Trojan run defense. He's picked up right where he left off, intercepting a pass in the opening game and leading the defense to a shutout in the second.
No. 6 Matt Grootegoed patrols the strong side of the field and, with two interceptions against Colorado State, is proving he is back from injuries and is once again an All-American candidate. No. 42 Dallas Sartz owns the other linebacker spot and is forcing head coach Pete Carroll to keep him there with his stellar play. His athletic interception against Colorado State shows that he knows the game and will constantly be in the right position.
The cornerback position at USC is very difficult to play as Pete Carroll's style of defense allows for the underneath pass. As a result, the corners must be quick, agile, and sure tacklers. No. 24 Justin Wyatt and No. 23 Ronald Nunn will serve as the starting corners with No. 30 Kevin Arbet also seeing playing time. All three do a great job of keeping opposing receivers in front of them and very rarely give up anything deeper than 15 yards.
The safety position is in good hands with No. 20 Darnell Bing and No. 27 Jason Leach patrolling the defensive backfield. Both these players, along with No. 29 Scott Ware, will put a hit on anyone coming through their territory.
Any of these three players are capable of turning the tide by jarring loose a fumble with a vicious hit or stepping in front of a receiver to intercept a pass. Leach was all over the place in the win against the Rams, playing inspired football, while Ware got the first start in his Trojan career and the JC transfer didn't disappoint.
No. 16 - Ryan Killeen:
Ryan Killeen provides something of a relief for the Trojans in the college football world of 0-5 field goal games. While he's not going to be asked to go out there and kick any from 50 yards, Killeen will make more than his fair share from inside 40 yards. Killeen has also become a reliable threat on kickoffs. He has the ability to put the ball 5-yards out of the back of the end zone, or hang it up so his return team can get down and make a tackle.
No. 14 – Tom Malone:
Tom Malone was the nation's best punter last season and is capable of unleashing 70-yard bombs at any time. He has a quick release and isn't easily rattled. He is a valuable asset in the field position game for the Trojans.