The mighty Trojans have been perennially perched atop college football's mountain of success, and no avalanche is forecasted for 2009. After a 12-1 season last year, including a dominating Rose Bowl performance (38-24 over Penn State), the University of Southern California is poised for another run at the National Championship. Sure, more than a dozen starters are gone (most to the NFL), but Pete Carroll is still one of the best recruiters in the biz and has a cavalcade of prospects who have been sitting on the sidelines, waiting to seize their opportunity.
Scout.com slapped a No. 4 ranking on USC in a preseason poll. The quarterback battle is settled after Aaron Corp won the job during spring ball. The Trojans' stable of studs in the backfield is led by Joe McKnight whose injury-filled sophomore season may be the only reason he isn't playing on Sundays this year. Alongside him are C.J. Gable and Stafon Johnson who both averaged more than five yards a carry in 2008. Wideouts Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson combined for 17 receiving TDs last year and will be the primary targets for the young signal caller, Corp.
On defense, USC will be minus eight of their starters from last season. For most teams this would serve as an excuse for a rebuilding year, but not so the case for the men of Troy. Linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said this season's grouping of ‘backers is overall faster than last year's trio of Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava – who were all taken in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft. The secondary is experienced and will be one of the best in the country. Senior safety Taylor Mays and his fellow ball-hawkers will take advantage of constant pressure from a speedy front seven and capitalize on QB mistakes. The Trojan secondary finished No. 1 in pass efficiency defense in 2008, yielding only 134.4 ypg and six TDs, against 19 INTs.
The Trojans of the last decade have immortalized the program in NCAA history, producing an 82-8 record since the 2001 season. USC lost their offensive and defensive coordinators during the offseason, but retained one of the savviest masterminds in the game. And as long as Pete Carroll is roaming the sidelines, the Trojans will be title contenders.
San Jose State D-line vs. USC O-line. If the Spartans have any chance to win this game they will need to take advantage of perhaps the Trojans' biggest weakness…if they have one. Spring accounts have reported USC's offensive line as lethargic. San Jose State will need to try and get to the sophomore Corp to rattle him in his first collegiate start. Not only will the Spartans need to put the inexperienced QB on his back early in the game, but the unit cannot afford to be manhandled in the trenches. Stopping the run was a BIG problem for SJSU last season and Carroll controls games by running the rock, and then blows it open with a 56-yard bomb to the endzone. Expect USC to be even more of a balanced team this year without that superstar, NFL-quarterback to be.
The men of Troy could be four touchdown favorites, maybe five. Will San Jose State be able to stop the Trojan ground game? Probably not. Will SJSU be able to score more than two offensive touchdowns on USC's lightning-quick, SEC-esque defense? Doubtful. This could get very ugly very quickly with a rabid crowd in the season opener at The Coliseum. The Trojans won't be able to put up 50 points on the Spartan defense, but State may have trouble scoring 10. USC should dominate in this lopsided affair, and that isn't a very bold prediction.
Scott Cooley is a Contributing Analyst to Inside Sparta. You may contact Scott with any questions, comments, or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
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