The Good, the Bad, the Inconsistent

Halfway through the season and looking forward to a questionable six games for USC, Scout assesses what's gone right and wrong so far this season, and how that knowledge makes the Trojans better.

Many writers or media outlets hand out grades for each position group after an individual game.

This isn't that kind of article.

Lane Kiffin has stressed it this week and inferred it all season long in that you can't take that much from a single game.

But you can take a heck of a lot from six. As the Trojans' see the hardest part of their schedule around the corner, with a road trip in South Bend, then back in The Coliseum against Stanford and then a trip to Ducks' territory, we have enough film to dissect to help us in assessing what kind of football team USC has become in 2011.

The Bad

It's always easier to start with the bad. You escape with a glimmer of hope rather than a bitter memory.

So here it is: this team is not complete. You might be saying-- wait a minute, the roster is set, they've been practicing for months-- what do you mean they're not complete? But I'm not talking about that kind of complete.

The Trojans haven't been a complete team in all three facets of their game--on offense, defense, and special teams--in any game thus far.

Take a look at the LSU, Oklahoma or Oregons of the country and you notice right away what the Trojans lack: stability.

Even in their five wins--the best start of Lane Kiffin's head coaching career--it's been choppy, anxiety-ridden football. Not smooth, clean dominate football through four quarters that fills the SEC today or was typical of USC in the past.

The Inconsistent

Against Minnesota, the defense gave up big plays, missed tackles and the offense was almost entirely in the air (but USC was without Marc Tyler this game because of his one-game suspension). The only three touchdowns produced by the cardinal and gold were from Matt Barkley to Robert Woods.

Versus Utah, the running game was back, sparked by Tyler's 113 yards and touchdown. And Matt Barkley had an excellent performance. But it was the special teams that was needed to eek out a win. The defense was okay, the young tight ends were okay, the offensive line was just okay.

The Trojans' offense lit up Syracuse. It was the most dominant game from USC this season, despite the defense giving up 17 points to the Orange. Barkley showed off his elite arm in this game, completing 26 of 39 passes for 324 yards and five touchdowns.

After a poor performance against one the state's counterpart, Barkley was ready for the University of Arizona Wildcats a week later, throwing four touchdown passes and rushing for a score. The defense played well in the first half, helped by safety T.J. McDonald's two interceptions, but looked flat in the second and let Arizona creep back late in the game.

California had been exposed in the Oregon game, but a contest against an opponent ranked in the top-ten nationally isn't always an indication of a team's ability. USC's defense, which had been bad at times, and decent at times, never looked dominant at any time this season. In Thursday's game, they did, from Chris Galippo and Dion Bailey's interceptions to the secondary's solid tackling and defensive line putting pressure on quarterback Zach Maynard.

The Good

They've only had one loss in six games.

They have a lot of fixable errors.

They have had time to put the ASU game behind them.

They had the bye week to freshen their legs and minds.

They know they've been inconsistent.

They beat a team on the road.

They know they have yet to put together a complete game.

With a tough road test in South Bend next week, this USC unit will be challenged in an uncomfortable place against a skilled team. But these Trojans also have matured in six weeks.

While it seems unlikely that they will win those four challenging tests in the second half of the schedule (At Notre Dame, versus Stanford, at Oregon, versus Washington), it's not impossible to fathom a complete game existing at some point against one of these opponents. The Trojans have the weapons to rise to the level of a nationally-ranked team, but whether they have the maturity to put them altogether, for four quarters, is something to be determined. Top Stories