"I really like the way this team is gaining momentum in the last 5 quarters and 3 minutes. In that span, USC has outscored its opposition 63 to 0, and JD Booty has played better than at any time this year. Booty's play in the next four games will be critical. For the season, JD is completing 62% of his passes with 19 TD's and 5 Int's. He must continue to have a completion percentage of 60% plus. Additionally, Booty must manage the game with regards to turnovers. The next three teams to visit the Coliseum all have offenses that will make SC pay for any short fields, and short field scores are such momentum changers. With how young SC is this year, momentum is more important than in past seasons. I really like the way the offense has opened up the last 5 quarters. Of course having Jarrett and Chauncey at full strength certainly makes a significant difference. We must continue to pound the ball with Chauncey a minimum 20+ times per game, and also continue to look for the post patterns which seem to be open more than not. Finally, Fred Davis should see the ball at least 5 times per game. He is without a doubt the biggest weapon not being fully utilized this season. Watch him on Saturday…he is literally open on every pattern running past some overmatched linebacker…especially on crossing routes.
"On defense, what a game by Terrell Thomas last Saturday! No one deserves it more! Congrats T2! The next three teams to visit the Coliseum all have excellent receiving corps, so our DB play will be critical. I personally would like us to have more confidence in our corners to play bump and run at the line. Similar to the offense, the defense has really opened things up the last two games with different blitz packages. I have never seen Sartz play so well. Everything starts with stopping the run game, and pressure on the QB. I am not as worried about Longshore and Quinn as I am about the mobile and athletic Dennis Dixon. This type of QB has caused major discrepancies for our defenses in the Carroll era (it's about the only discrepancy for PC's defenses). We must stay in the assigned containment lanes for Dixon. Accordingly, I could see Lua playing more than Rey Rey against Oregon. Finally, even though Rivers has really stepped up this year, my defensive MVP is the solid Kevin Ellison.
"Do you realize Mario Danelo is 21 for 23 in FG's the last two seasons! With the athletes we have, it's still a bit of a mystery to me why our special teams coverage are not better. Cal is leading the PacTen in punt returns, and Notre Dame has that pesky Zibikowski. Our defense is better than anyone's who we have left. However our offense may be a draw against Oregon and Cal. Therefore, we must win the special teams battles helped by our defense with field position. C.J. Gable has done a nice job since taking over the kickoff returning role (he is 2nd in the PacTen), and Van Blarcom's kickoffs are touchbacks 2 out of 3 times (except Stanford), which is a major luxury. Finally, please instruct our blockers opposite the kicker's foot to signal for a fair catch on the pooch on-side's kicks that have counted as turnovers recently.
"There is no question that we have more talent than anyone left on the schedule. Our coaches need to step up and continue to trust our young players more, as they have the last 5 quarters. If we just continue to build momentum and get hot at the right time of the season, in addition to playing to our potential, no one can beat us."
"The biggest issue facing the Trojans during the next four weeks is ball security on offense. By turning the ball over, the USC offense has put the defense in some tough situations by facing short fields and extra appearances. The Trojans as a whole are talented enough to beat each of the next four teams as long as they achieve a full result on each one of their possessions. The defense will not be shut out in the turnover battle for the rest of the season, so it will be up to the offense to maintain an edge in the number of possessions for each game. If Pete Carroll wants to break the game down to something as simple as being, "all about the ball," I'm not going to disagree with him. If the Trojan offense displays that philosophy on the field on Saturday or any day after, they won't be beaten."
"Coaching and running game. I sometimes think USC can out think themselves. Stanford is terrible at stopping the run, but 17 of the first 21 firstdown plays are pass. I asked JDB about the tendancies, and he said the last thing this offense needs is 2nd and 3rd in long, but they will continue to do what is working at the time, even if it means passing ten times in a row. Oregon can not stop the run. Will USC take what the Defense gives them or will they try to force their will on their D? I believe SC must run the ball effectively to keep all of the powerful offenses off the field and be balanced. I love how USC started rolling JDB out inside the red zone. The coaching staff made adjustments after the loss that improved the offense. Hopefully the offense keeps moving forward and develops the run game against Oregon. They can not get into third and long and second and long. As good as JDB booty has been of late he will be better if we can avoid obvious passing downs."
"Football, more than any other team sport, is shaped by the level of physical effort generated by the players. Weaker teams can defeat stronger teams and great coaches can lose to lesser coaches based upon the level of player-desire in a given game. So, to my way of thinking, our players will need to display at least as much desire as Oregon players in order to win this Saturday. The way I saw the OSU game, the Beavers displayed more desire than we did for 3 quarters. Yes, turnovers hurt, but we did not look like the most physical team on the field for the first 3 quarters. To me, we didn't even look like the most physical team for most of the third quarter at Stanford.
"Our challenge in the current environment is that every team considers their game with us to be make-or-break for their season, if not their career. That is a big factor to contend with every Saturday.
"I'm not confusing desire with wants to win. I assume every player in the Pac 10 wants to win. And they want it a lot. When I talk about desire I'm talking about a mindset that results in aggressive physical play. Knocking people around (within the rules), physically making opportunities to take the ball away, creating doubt in the mind of our opponent about their own abilities. That is what great Trojan teams have been able to do down through the decades of our history.
"As for Oregon, it seems that disrupting their running game is key. How do we do that? We physically beat their blocks, disrupt their blocking schemes with aggression and swarm to the ball. Lose the physical battle and we will probably lose the game.
"I've heard Pete talk about sports psychology enough to believe that he's spent a lot of time studying the subject. He apparently has bought into the John Wooden approach that in order for teams with superior talent and big reputations to win over and over again, they must have a consistent routine where star players measure their success by their own improvement that in turn is tied directly to team performance. Pete's record speaks volumes about the success of this approach. But the vulnerability this year may well be that this team may never realize that at its fundamental core, football is a game of physical intimidation.
"So, is this current team just vicariously living off the successes of the past? Is all that jumping up and down before the game adjust going through the motions of previously successful teams. Is the team of 2006 willing to pay the dues necessary to win the next 5 games? We are about to find out.
"I know that many feel our play calling is inadequate or that our defensive alignment should be altered. In my humble opinion, both are good enough to win the next 5 games so long as the players have enough desire to enforce their physical superiority in each game. It is gut-check time in the Coliseum.
"Let the games begin."
"In our opinion, the most important aspects to watch in the critical upcoming weeks are the Trojans' secondary and the quarterback position. As for the Trojans' secondary, the loss of Josh Pinkard and to a lesser degree Kevin Thomas may be the most glarring as the Cardinal and Gold face the quarterback likes of Dennis Dixon, Nathan Longshore, and Brady Quinn. All three of these quarterbacks will present major challenges for a Trojan secondary that has already been strongly tested by Alex Brink of Washington State and Matt Moore of Oregon State. Throw in the running back talents of Oregon's Jonathan Stewart, Cal's Marshawn Lynch, and ND's Darius Walker, and this secondary is facing some real firepower attacks.
"As for quarterback, it is our view that how goes John David Booty will be how goes the Trojans chances the rest of the way. We speak here in terms of Booty avoiding killer interceptions, fumbles, and, of course, tip passes. Booty has done a reasonable job to this point in leading the club, but how much more will he and can he improve against the upcoming competition? Much of what Booty is asked to do will also cast light on offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who will also be a subplot the rest of the way."