Let’s hope college football fans agree that The University of Southern California’s (USC) “Fight On” and “Tribute to Troy” are two of the greatest fight songs in the land. Spectators should expect to be treated to the crashing cymbals of revelry from both compositions upon several occasions this 2009 season. I am predicting that the USC Trojans will crash the Texas – Florida BCS Championship party.
Even casual fans of college football recognize that USC is always a fixture amidst the national championship mix. The program is the perfect fusion of tradition, coaching, location, and a relatively weak conference, which effectively elevate the Trojans onto another plane of Big Time football. Per the BCS National Championship, this plane is occupied by the SEC powers, USC, Texas, and Oklahoma.
Last season, the Trojans title hopes were derailed by yet another brain freeze loss to a weaker Pac 10 rival. Oregon State and the rushing attack inflicted the pain at Corvallis. Then freshman Jacquizz Rodgers put together the game of his life and the diminutive back rushed for 186 yards and two touchdowns upon 37 carries to torch the USC defense.
Although the Trojans regrouped to destroy the Pac 10, yet again, the voters and computers were not convinced that the squad was title worthy over fellow one-loss powers Oklahoma and Florida. The BCS computers have spoken: USC cannot afford to lose to any Pac 10 cream puff to manufacture a shot at the National Championship.
The scenario has risen to the fore in the aftermath of crushing losses to Stanford and UCLA – that have left USC with the Rose Bowl parting gift. The Trojans have habitually unloaded these frustrations upon an overmatched Big 10 foe. Last season, Mark Sanchez put together his 28-35 / 413-yard / 4 touchdown clinic, at the expense of the Penn State secondary, as USC rolled at Pasadena.
Of course, Sanchez was to take his game to the New York Jets – to the consternation of Pete Carroll. Meanwhile, the 2008-2009 defense that allowed a meager 9 points per game has also been gutted of NFL talent and returns a mere 3 starters to the fold.
The names Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, John David Booty, Steve Smith, Sanchez, Keith Rivers, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Polamalu, Lofa Tatupu, and Reggie Bush prove that conventional rebuilding is not an option at The Coliseum. Rather, USC always reloads by lording over the L.A. Basin stockpile of talent.
Pete Carroll must find the answer at quarterback and offensive coordinator. USC is talented, yet green at the position, with Aaron Corp, Matt Barkley, and Mitch Mustain running 1-2-3 at the depth chart. Expect Corp and Barkley to be thrown into the pressure packed fire of SC Glamour Boy quarterback, while Arkansas transfer Mustain languishes as an emergency option.
Right-hand-man Steve Sarkisian has moved to the Pacific Northwest to call the shots at Washington. His replacement Jeremy Bates will call the plays as quarterbacks coach and must now grow into “the feel” that have been trademarks of the pro-style schemes masterminded by his Chow – Sarkisian predecessors.
Our 2009 USC Football preview and predictions are set to determine whether the program will make a return to Pasadena per the BCS National Championship, or the Rose Bowl. History and the computers have already indicated that USC must run the table to advance. Let’s evaluate the key personnel losses, strengths / weaknesses, and scheduled dates to determine the fate of these USC Trojans.
2009 – 2010 USC Trojans College Football Season Preview: Key Personnel Losses from 2008-2009
QB Mark Sanchez: 341 for 366 for 3,207 yards and 34 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.
WR Patrick Turner: 49 catches for 741 yards and 10 touchdowns.
USC Defensive Line: DT Fili Moala, DT Kyle More, DE Clay Matthews
USC Linebackers: Kaluka Maiava, Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing
USC Secondary: S Kevin Ellison and CB Cary Harris
The University of Southern California has sent a parade of NFL talent to the next level, yet again. In fact, hecklers reason that USC actually doubles as the professional football team in Los Angeles. The program must replace the fiery leadership of Mark Sanchez, alongside the core of one of the most dominant collegiate defenses of all time.
Football fanatics must remember that Sanchez was a relative unknown and looming question mark going into last season. Skeptics were divided as to how the local kid would entertain the USC quarterback glare following the solid career of John David Booty.
Of course, Sanchez emerged as the ultimate SoCal Rock Star and direct conduit between elite football and the Mexican-American community. Mark Sanchez is now in position to claim the starting job at New York – following an ugly spat with Pete Carroll over his declaration for the NFL Draft.
Today, USC operates from the leisurely position and option of incorporating three separate All-American signal callers into the offense. Remember, the Trojan lineup remains stacked, and the team may very well thrive with a green quarterback simply “managing the game.”
Although the 2009 defense will not shut down opponents at an unreal 9 points per game clip, the unit will remain effective, and win games. The defense is losing the decorated Trojan resumes of Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews, and Kevin Ellison – all vocal locker room ringleaders.
Still, USC is never short of talent. Pete Carroll’s mantra and embrace of competition at all costs has served his next crop of superstars well. Indeed, USC veterans often remark that practices and the battles for starting reps are more intense than the actual game days at Southern California.
2009 – 2010 USC Trojans College Football Season Preview: Key Contributors, Strengths, and Weaknesses
QB Aaron Corp: 2 for 4 and 14 yards passing
RB Stafon Johnson: 138 carries for 705 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns
RB Joe McKnight: 89 carries for 659 yards rushing and 3 total TDs
RB C.J. Gable: 107 carries for 617 yards and 9 total TDs
WR Damian Williams: 58 catches for 869 yards and 9 TDs
FS Taylor Mays: 53 tackles
Offensive Line: C Kristofer O’Dowd, LG Jeff Byers, RG Alex Parsons, LT Charles Brown, RT Tyron Smith
USC is stacked offensively to the point where any game managing quarterback could step into the lineup and hang enough points on the board to win. The 2009-2010 USC offensive line will accept the mantle from 2008-2009 Oklahoma as the most dominant unit in college football. The group is anchored by junior center Kristofer O’Dowd and the fundamentally sound Jeff Byers at left guard.
The All-Star O-line will gash the opposition to open up holes for “The Stable” at Tailback U. Stafon Johnson, Joe McKnight, and C.J. Gable would be workhorse starters at nearly every campus in America – but must share carries within the stacked SC backfield. The Trojans could very well control the clock behind the power of Johnson, all-around electricity of McKnight, and vision of C.J. Gable.
Of course, the lanky Damian Williams looms on the outside as one of the more talented wide receivers in the Nation. The Arkansas transfer broke out to play pitch and catch with Mark Sanchez in the 2008-2009 Rose Bowl and accounted for 162 yards of offense upon 10 receptions.
SC is more than solid at fullback and tight end, where NFL-ready Stanley Havili and Anthony McCoy are excellent blockers and receivers capable of moving the chains.
Quarterback is the lone question mark at USC.
The Trojans will roll out sophomore Aaron Corp as the starter. Corp has demonstrated a solid arm and mobility to win one of the most glamorous jobs in America. Still, Aaron Corp may simply be keeping the seat warm for Matt Barkley. Barkley is a true freshman and has already beaten out Mitch Mustain for the #2 backup role.
In fact, reports out of Los Angeles indicate that Barkley is further along in his progression than the polished Carson Palmer was at this very same point. Expect Matt Barkley to take his fair share of snaps early on, and even accept the starting post by mid-season.
Defensively, free safety Taylor Mays represents the face of USC football. Mays is the prototype at 6’3 235 – with 4.35 speed; and accepts the baton from Troy Polamalu, Joey Browner, Tim McDonald, Mark Carrier and Ronnie Lott as rangy, hard-hitting safeties. Taylor Mays is a force.
Per the front-seven, Everson Griffen must keep his motor running throughout to pressure the quarterback from defensive end; and Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith, and Michael Morgan are set to wreak havoc as the latest trio of starting USC “55” and “58” linebackers.
Still, the USC pass rush and defense against the run are relatively weak. The Trojans cannot afford to allow yet another weaker opponent to control the line of scrimmage, score touchdowns, and eat away the clock. The porous defensive line, coupled with green quarterbacking could be a recipe for disaster on the road at Columbus, or facing off against rabid Pac 10 fans.
2009 – 2010 USC Trojans College Football Season Preview: Key Dates on USC Schedule and Predictions
September 12: USC Trojans at Ohio State Buckeyes @ 8:00 p.m. EST
September 19: USC Trojans at Washington Huskies @ 3:30 p.m.
October 3: USC Trojans at California Golden Bears @ 8:00 p.m.
October 17: Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners @ 12:00 p.m.
October 31: USC Trojans at Oregon @ 8:00 p.m.
November 28: USC Trojans Host UCLA Bruins @ 10:00 p.m.
January 7, 2010: BCS National Championship Game – Pasadena @ 8:30 p.m.
The University of Southern California Trojans must combat a challenging road schedule with numerous trips into various hostile environs at the West Coast and Midwest. Per the Pacific 10 Conference, USC is at Washington, Cal, and Oregon. Cal and Oregon represent dangerous clubs that will be tough outs on the road and the Washington Huskies will be brimming with emotion at Seattle.
Obviously, Steve Sarkisian will look to up the ante against his former club.
USC will also travel to the heartland to match up against a veteran Notre Dame squad battling for a return to respectability and for the September 12 showdown at Columbus.
The Trojans have afforded themselves only one tune-up prior to the Ohio State showdown. Last season, the #5 Buckeyes showed up at the Coliseum in name only and got spanked 3-35. The blowout loss destroyed Ohio State’s National Championship aspirations, and the Big 10 was outclassed by Big Time speed, yet again. Then freshman Terrelle Pryor appeared to be the only member of the Scarlet and Grey that actually belonged on the field.
This season, Pryor’s diapers have come off, and the spot duty quarterback is The Man at Columbus. Still, Ohio State must reload at running back, wide receiver, and linebacker. Pryor will make Vince Young type plays – in spots, but his one-man heroics will not be enough to beat this USC team.
USC is thinking BCS National Championship. Ohio State is thinking Rose Bowl.
USC is actually competing against the victor of the October 17 Texas – Oklahoma Red River Shootout for the right to stare down the University of Florida in the BCS National Championship Game. A one-loss and SEC Champion Florida will operate with the benefit of the doubt as the team to beat. Meanwhile, USC, Oklahoma, Texas, and the Dark Horse Big 10 powers must run the table to control their own respective destinies.
USC cannot afford yet another maddening brain freeze in the Pac 10. The talented club often suffers through 3-quarter long spates of boredom, where it plays down to the competition.
2009 may very well mark the year where SC makes all the plays to roll through the conference.
2009 – 2010 USC Trojans College Football Season Preview and Predictions
The spotlight glare is centered upon “The Greatest Team Ever” scuttlebutt at Gainesville and their anointed Texas opponent. Expectations have been relaxed, somewhat at Troy. Last season, the Trojans entered the year with the top ranking, before the shellacking of Ohio State at home. Tailback Jacquizz Rogers gashed the SC front-7, and the Men from Troy could never recover.
Personally, I feel that this Trojan roster will perform at its best as a relaxed bunch. An overlooked USC team per the National Championship mix is the most dangerous USC team. USC recognizes that the ballclub does not have to destroy every opponent, that Aaron Corp is not Matt Leinart, and Joe McKnight is Joe McKnight – not Reggie Bush.
The USC Trojans will go undefeated, prior to their January 7, 2010 showdown versus the Florida Gators at the BCS National Championship Game at Pasadena.
2009 USC College Football Season Preview and Predictions, Sources:
USC Trojans Football, http://www.usctrojans.com/sports/m-footbl/usc-m-footbl-body.html
ESPN, College Football, http://espn.go.com/college-football/
2009 USC Trojans Football Preview, http://www.collegesports-fans.com/football-previews/2009-preview/usc-trojans.html