Time for Good to get Better

Yet another team has leap-frogged USC in the latest BCS poll, thanks to a lack of style points by the Trojans through their first six games and yes, six victories. Six and Zero. Amazing when you think of that accomplishment and what's happened to this team.

Polls don't really matter right now. It's the month of November where the jockeying for position becomes fierce and if Pete Carroll's record during last year, the year before and the year before that is any indication then Trojan fans might want to start making January reservations now.

Yes I know, it's time for good to get better. It's time for Carroll and Company to stop messing around and play Trojan football. Kill somebody already, would ya!?! That's what most fans have been screaming to their television sets and soon to be ex-wives. The echoes are so loud they've reverberated through the media, football prognosticators – you know the fellows paid to voice their opinion about all things college football related yet who really don't know any more than anyone eles – and have even reached former Trojan players who aren't happy with what they are seeing.

The echoes have continued down Figueroa, across Jefferson and thru to Heritage Hall where they've finally reached Trojan head coach, Pete Carroll.

He's heard them and you know what, he was already aware of pretty much every genius on the outside looking in has been saying since the USC trounced Arkansas – this Trojan team is out of sync. Well duh.

People want a blood-letting. They want to unleash the lions unto the Christians. They want to satiate a six win thirst all at once during this coming weekend's game against the Oregon State Beavers but it ain't gonna happen – not all at once, in one game, at least. What fans and the media must satisfy themselves with are the bits and pieces, scraps if you will, of the semblance of a total victory from a near complete football team. USC will find its way back this weekend, just not all the way home.

Sure, it's gonna be Bye, Bye, Beavers as the Trojans parachute into Reeser Stadium, home of Oregon State and now known as the house of pain – not for anything the boys in black and orange have dished out to anyone else but for the injuries that have taken their toll throughout their own starting unit.

Teams like OSU are not as deep as their Southern California counterparts and therefore injuries to key players can be far more devastating. The Beavers are heading into this contest a bit gamey, with their starting center, tailback and safety all hobbled. When you consider that Mike Riley's men need to be near perfect to affect a victory, having your first platoon beat to hell isn't a great way to start a war.

Fatigue and injury should not be an issue, however, for the Trojans. Back from a bye week are alias Smith and Jarrett. The Trojans have been near unrecognizable without them and John David Booty has hardly wowed fans in their absence. Now, with the air-attack near takeoff, the Trojans prepare for what could be a blitzkrieg on the Beavers.

Many are predicting a conservative ground game featuring Trojan fourth year junior, Chauncey Washington. Now while I believe Washington, along with the other Trojan tailbacks will get their turn, I do not believe the SC coaches will rely on the run until late in the second half. Instead, I anticipate an all-out air assault on the weakened Beaver secondary will be used to get this party started.

Do I think it's going to be a cake-walk, no. Reeser is a tough venue but having Smith, Jarrett, Turner, Patterson, Davis, Hazelton, et al both honed thru experience and back on the field thru health, will be the difference maker for the Trojans this coming Saturday.

It would be easy to hand off to Chauncey and gobble up clock. The problem with that is that it's one-dimensional and that is not Pete Carroll football. Pete employs a balanced attack and thus far he's been thrilled to accomplish that goal. What USC revealed in the victory over ASU two weeks ago was the return of the run game. Taking nearly eight minutes and chewing up a ton of yards, the Trojans took control in the fourth quarter and took the game away from the Sun Devils. Well and good but now it's time to strike the balance and do so through the air.

Oregon State's starting Safety is down. He could be available but will not be 100%. Their other Safety, Sabby Piscitelli is wonderful in run support and he might knock your head off coming over the middle but he gets lost in space. USC has the talent at receiver to turn him around while exploiting the other players in the Beaver secondary. It is also imperative that Trojan offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, get Booty's groove back.

Kiffin has been very vocal about his signal caller, John David Booty's poor performance over these last six quarters of Trojan football. With missed progressions, and happy feet in the pocket Booty has developed a general lack of confidence. This will be the first time he's had almost all of his original weapons returning to play this weekend. Granted Powdrell, Hancock and Havili are still out but Alan Bradford's in – in a big way.

The fullback is key to the Trojan offense. Having a young man with Bradford's size, versatility and hands, makes him an immediate threat as a pass catcher. That extra weapon creates coverage problems for a defense – especially one having to handle USC's wide receiving corp.

Strange as it may sound, for Booty to have complete success come Saturday he is going to have to start feeling Moody – that is Emmanuel Moody on hitches, otherwise known as long handoffs. That is how I see SC exploiting Oregon State while implementing a balance attack. Open up the run with the pass. Keep passing on every down through the first fifteen or so plays. Get the ball to Moody and Washington thru short passes and dumps, once the defense has moved back to cover the aerial attack. That's when the ground game gets brought into full play, around the middle of the third quarter and is used from then on to control the clock and tempo of the game.

This doesn't have to be a blow-out win if the Trojans can execute their offense at a very high-level for four quarters of football. A seventeen point win should be exactly what the Doctor ordered to get USC's offense back on its feet again.

As for the defense, what is key is penetration. Nobody likes hitting a Beaver harder than a Trojan and with a week off the pounding should be intense but big hits are not what this defense is missing.

Through the first six games there have plenty of hits to go around. What there hasn't been is containment, pressure and coverage sacks. The Trojan defense must grow up this weekend and start playing team ball. Their goal should be to take Matt Moore, Oregon State's quarterback and offensive leader out of is game. While Moore's completion ratio has been a solid 61%, his turnovers nearly match his touchdowns. And of those passing td's nearly 50% have gone to his tailback and tight end meaning that he hasn't mastered the downfield pass yet. And unfortunately for the Beaver QB, he doesn't have the weapons to truly go deep. This means quick, three-step drops and dumps to his release man, either at tight end or tailback. This also means that if SC hopes to take this part of the Beaver offense away from them and force Moore to beat them with his arm, they are going to have to cause a commotion in the Beaver backfield.

If they can accomplish that, generate some turnovers and give their offense the ball back as quickly and often as possible, then most of America will be really pissing Charlie Weiss off when they declare USC to be the "other" team that will be playing in the BCS Championship game. Nothing, other than a low-fat diet could upset Coach Weiss more.

So, as SC heads North, it becomes obvious what USC needs to do to affect that victory – they need to take that giant step toward Trojan football. They don't need to make it all at once, after all there can only be so may sacks and so many turnovers in a college game, right… right? But they do have a chance to really right their ship for themselves as they move into the meat of the 2006 schedule.

As for the Beavers, to get a win they need to be perfect. It can be done but the odds go against you some of your best players are not 100%. What Oregon State can do is play within themselves, stick to whatever gameplan their coach has enacted to give them the best odds of being close near the end, and then fighting like mad for their own bits and pieces – the scraps that sometimes make a meal.

Beaver Head Coach Mike Riley is probably praying for rain right now but the only reign that might be delivered will come through a continued dominance by USC over its Pacific Northwest Pac Ten partner.

SC wins but not by a wide margin, just by a very convincing performance that may not get every voter's attention but should announce to the faithful that November's going to be, yet again,… truly a month to remember.

Again, look for SC to use the pass to set up the run and to execute the dumps to the backs and tight ends as long handoffs until the Oregon State defense is forced back into coverage and that's when Mr. Washington comes to town.

The fourth and final quarter will not be a nailbiter as the last few were but instead the methodical dissection by Pete Carroll of yet another quality opponent.

SC 35 OSU 13


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