Losing to Boston College was a major setback for the young Steve Sarkisian era. After Ed Orgeron's run last season, Sarkisian was under tremendous pressure from the get-go to succeed immediately. Beating Stanford should have bought him more time, but laying an egg against an inferior opponent has brought up the "Lane Kiffin 2.0" talk, especially with the stubborn play calling and lack of halftime adjustments against the Eagles.
Saturday was the first time Steve Sarkisian was the head coach of a team ranked in the AP top-10. He has turned around a bad team, but can he take a good team and make it great? He said all the right things after the loss, but will those setbacks suffered against BC become lessons learned or more pain down the road for Trojan fans?
Fair or not, Sark is on the clock and will need to show he can learn from his mistakes as the meat of the Pac-12 schedule comes after the bye week.
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Q: Who should we worry more about: UCLA or USC?
A: The Bruins.
While both of L.A.’s teams have had rocky moments in the first three weeks, the UCLA situation is more worrisome because the team was built for this season. The Bruins were one of the buzziest squads of the offseason, yet they haven’t delivered a complete game this summer. UCLA has the third-year coach, the Heisman-contending quarterback and the outside linebacker with the borderline cult following. And yet, there’s a growing concern that this team is missing some of the intangibles needed to match all of the roster’s four and five-star recruits.
USC? Yeah, there’s no way to sugarcoat the reality that last weekend in Boston was a major setback. But this was going to be a table-setting season all along, not one that was supposed to produce hardware. There’s a first-year staff installing new systems, youth all over the two-deep and those nagging depth problems that won’t fully dissipate until at least 2015. Plus, Troy does own the best win of the two schools, going on the road to beat Stanford a week ago.
UCLA and USC have issues after the first three games. The Bruins’ worries are bigger, though, because they began the year with a higher bar, and because you can’t struggle at home with Memphis without their being an underlying problem transcending personnel and X’s and O’s.
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Should we worry more about USC or UCLA?
College football is starting to get fun again in southern California with both UCLA and USC being relevant at the same time for the first time in ages. Not only does the annual cross-town rivalry look to be a hoot, but there’s the chance for both teams to make some noise on a national scale.
After the first two weeks of the season however, there are some concerns in both the Coliseum as well as the Rose Bowl that have shown on the field, and you have to wonder if either has what it takes to be there with presumably Oregon when all the shouting stops.
While both have issues that could be discussed at greater length, fans that wear light blue should be more concerned. It’s not that the talent is inferior on the Bruin sideline, but more a product of circumstances.
First and foremost is the concern with the ability of quarterback Brett Hundley to stay healthy. He is already reportedly nursing a hyperextended non-throwing elbow, and while that’s palatable, it doesn’t take much to re-aggravate the injury and all that goes with favoring and shielding it while in the pocket, racing outside the pocket, and throwing the ball downfield. The last thing you want with a quarterback is to not feel free and confident to do what he does naturally. Especially a guy with the talent of a Heisman candidate like Hundley.
And if that’s not enough, the Bruins have a less-forgiving schedule. In fact, it could be argued that the schedule is down-right brutal with away games at places like Arizona State and Washington, and home games against Oregon, USC and Stanford. That’s four top twenty ranked teams, and against a Washington team that is tough to beat in Seattle.
Yeah, USC has enough off-the-field issues to fill up a Dear Abby column, but the schedule is much softer with only three ranked teams left to play. Two of those are at home, with the Trojans missing all 324 of Oregon’s uniform combinations to boot. Steve Sarkisian’s crew could still drop a game or two, but it’s much more likely that it gets through the schedule in better shape than the Bruins.