Two main thoughts emerge for me after Saturday's win:
The USC defense is outstanding. Dominating. Unbelievably good for as much youth as is on the field. I'd like to see any team run on this defense. I'm waiting to see a real passing team try to throw on us (we haven't seen that yet), but can we go back to the Rose Bowl and play Texas again with this defense? I don't think it would have been close.
The USC offense is working out the kinks, but the flashes of brilliance we get to see are tremendous. As the season progresses, we will see the offensive line start to develop better chemistry; we will see the running backs start to understand the run package and feel more comfortable; we will see the coaching staff hit their stride with this set of personnel – and I think by November, this offense will be outstanding. (And notice I didn't say anything about growth at the quarterback and receiver positions. Booty looks like a veteran. Other than locking in on his first receiver a bit too much – which he may not get away with later in the season – this guy is all we could have hoped for. And Jarrett, Smith and the gang are as good as any team in the nation – just keep it up!).
Key questions going forward:
1. How will the loss of Ryan Powdrell effect this offense? First Hancock, then Powdrell. I think this is a big loss, and may have caused some of the offensive sputtering that we saw Saturday.
2. When is that unexpected first close game going to hit us? In 2002, early games on the road kept Carson Palmer's great team from a national championship. In 2003, a "reloading" USC team with all the stars wins at Auburn to kick off our year, but loses to Cal on the road early in the season. It's hard to look at the 2006 schedule and see any team that is imposing or could be a serious threat until November… but my instincts tell me there will be a game, on the road, where we do something uncharacteristic (turnovers), and the other team executes well and we find ourselves in a game down the stretch with an opponent and their crowd smelling upset. Carroll doesn't seem to let his teams take games lightly or let someone slip up on us, but the Trojans are still very young and have a target on their back for every opponent trying to make their season. Just another reason to watch every week.
Jeremy Hogue is a former Academic All-American offensive lineman at USC who started 28 games over the course of his career, including the 1996 Rose Bowl victory over Northwestern. Jeremy later graduated from Harvard Law School and is now CEO of Sovereign Healthcare. Beginning this month, he will also serve as the Trojan analyst for the Fox Sports West USC Live shows following Trojan games. His column will appear after each game on WeAreSC.