The last drive of the game against Ohio State was just a thing of beauty wasn't it? USC had their backs up against the wall and all the Buckeyes have to do is stop them one last time to win the game. USC drives the length of the field and eats the clock in route to an epic 18-15 come from behind victory. Those type of things happen all the time for the Trojans because they are used to winning and expect to win every game.
Next up for USC is the Washington Huskies and even though they will be facing a couple of their old coaches you can bet their will be a bit of an emotional let down this week after a big national game. The Trojans are bruised, they are hurting, and despite the win they know they were in a big game last week. I expect them to spend most of the week on the mend healing from all the bumps and bruises.
All of the above bodes well for Washington because USC is going to take them as lightly as LSU did in the opener. It doesn't matter what type of story Pete Carroll spins this week...the Trojan players know they are playing a potential patsy that went 0-12 last season. The best time to catch the Trojans napping is after a big game when they have to travel to the Northwest. For example last season the Trojans lost to Oregon State after finishing off the Buckeyes at home.
What we know so far about USC is that they have built another stellar defense. Holding tOSU to 15 points on the road with a new starting cast at LB and on the DL is no small feat. Jr. Michael Morgan, Jr. Malcom Smith, and So. Chris Galippo are the new crew at LB. All of these guys have a lot of talent even though it will be hard to live up to last years all star line up right away. Chris Galippo is a guy to keep an eye on. Chris intercepted Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor on the third snap of the game, returning it 51 yards to the tOSU 2-yard line. That play set the defensive tone for the day even though the Trojans were held to only a FG.
Safety Taylor Mays is back again and he led the team with eight tackles last week despite playing with a sprained knee. The injury is described as a mild MCL sprain. He is listed as probable for the game even though he took the day off on Monday. Josh Pinkard mans the other safety position giving the Trojans one of the strongest safety tandems in the country. (Pinkard was slated to play safety but with the loss of Wright to academics he has been playing CB. Will Harris has been playing opposite Taylor Mays. Thanks to Gecko for pointing this out.)
Shareece Wright is a fearsome hitter at CB. (Wright has been declared ineligible for 2009 due to academics. Pinkard will be starting at CB.) I don't think anyone will soon forget the bone crushing sideline hit he put on Locker two years ago. Kevin Thomas is also a big hitter and manages the other side of the field. The Trojans have a huge edge in the secondary going into this one. That being said teams can still pass on these guys, however yards after the catch may be hard to come by.
The Trojans philosophy against Jake Locker has been very simple in the past. Hit him hard and take him out of the game if he attempts to run the ball. Locker's increased prowess throwing the ball is a big plus in that area. Jake is looking to run first and throw second. He is using his mobility to gain time for his receivers to get open rather than make big plays at this juncture.
Washington needs Locker for 12 games so while I expect him to run at times this coming Saturday I also expect the coaches to stress getting out of bounds and sliding to stay healthy. His accuracy is hovering at the 60% range currently and that should be good enough to keep the Washington offense moving on Saturday. Washington has the ability to score points on USC. Nothing against Ohio State but with Locker at the helm the Huskies are more dangerous to the Trojans from an offensive perspective. Locker drives defenses crazy.
The combo of Chris Polk and Johri Fogerson has been strong and steady over the past two games. Fogerson has shown a knack for making big plays on the receiving end of Jake Locker passes. The kid is a pure football player with exceptional instincts. We thought the FB would be more involved this season but it seems like Fogerson has taken over that role from the H-Back position. Polk has been strong North and South which has been good to see. He hasn't broken away much yet but he has been a half a step away from doing that on more than a few occasions.
The UW offensive line has performed better than most of us thought it would. They have their biggest challenge of the season coming up this Saturday. It is imperative that they get enough push to keep the UW running game going to keep the Husky offense balanced.
On the USC defensive line redshirt freshman Wes Horton has edged out another redshirt freshman, Nick Perry, for the starting defensive end spot opposite Everson Griffen. DE Armond Armstead is likely to be sidelined for six weeks after breaking his left foot in camp. DT Averill Spicer has been playing on a gimpy ankle. Christian Tupou returns at nose tackle. Despite the injuries the Trojans look extremely solid up front and it isn't a stretch to say that these guys may just be the best we face all season.
Offensively the Trojans are led by one of the best, if not the best, offensive line in college football. Jeff Byers returns for his 6th year and Kristopher O'Dowd returns this week at center after taking two weeks off to nurse a dislocated knee cap. Both of these guys are pre season All Americans who will challenge the Washington interior.
One thing I noticed last week was Alameda Ta'amu being rested the majority of the game. Obviously the coaches wanted some younger players to get some experience but I think the major reason is to keep him fresh and healthy for this weeks game. Ta'amu has proven himself to be a major hole plugger in the early going. While Washington's defense has received mixed results so far the interior of the line has shut down or controlled the oppositions running games for two straight weeks.
Jr. RB Joe McKnight is the leader in the USC backfield. He rushed 16 times for 60 yards against Ohio State. He also caught two passes for 45 yards. Most importantly McKnight accounted for 53 total yards on last weeks classic game-winning drive. McNight is off to a good start this season but his past history indicates that he has a problem holding on to the ball. The UW defense needs to concentrate on stripping the ball away from him.
The player getting the most attention from the media this week is Fr. QB Matt Barkley. His numbers against Ohio State weren't all that great -- 15 of 31 for 195 yards, with one interception and zero touchdowns. He also hit the turf hard too many times at the hands of the Buckeye defense. One sack resulted in him losing the feeling in his shoulder for the rest of the game. Despite that his 14-play, 86-yard drive was a thing of beauty. That drive may be the key component in a potential national championship season.
When the Trojans look at last weeks UW game film they will be happy to see that the mid section of the field was open for most of the game and the Idaho receivers were able to take advantage of that all day long. One big reason for that is Nathan Enderle had around 4 seconds to throw the ball on most plays. If Washington gives SC that type of cushion Barkley could have a big day. Look for the Husky defense who only stunted around 12% of the snaps last Saturday to increase the pressure this week.
USC was a little sloppy on special teams last weekend. Punter Billy O'Malley couldn't handle a high snap in the end zone, and the ball went out of the end zone for a safety in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, O'Malley was lucky to not have a punt blocked, which could have really sealed the game for the Buckeyes. New placekicker Jordan Congdon missed a 44-yard field goal attempt late in the first half as the ball hit the crossbar and bounced back. O'Malley, by the way, averaged just 37.6 yards on five punts against OSU.
Washington while not spectacular has been pretty steady on special teams. The punting has been good and the place kicking has been more than adequate. Curtis Shaw's fumble of the opening kickoff of the second half against Idaho has been the only major miscue so far. Look for UW to go after the Trojan punter in search of a big play on Saturday.
USC is a 22 point favorite at the moment but I think it is fair to assume that Washington will at least cover in this one. The Trojans have a history of letting their guard down after a big game and Saturday presents that type of opportunity for Washington. If Washington can get off to an early lead and build some confidence like they did against LSU this one won't be decided until late in the fourth quarter.
Tuesday may be the toughest day of the week competition wise for Washington. The Dawgs were in full pads last night and experimented with changes on the offensive line. Mykena Ikehara is getting a lot of time with the first unit at Greg Christine's spot. Washington continues its quest to develop quality depth at every position.
Darrion Jones is still out so that means Kelani Aldrich remained with the one's. Everette Thompson is getting tested big time this week to detrmine if he can contribute at a high enough level to rule out a redshirt season. Tali Crichton and Andru Pulu continue to push fro more playing time. Everyone knows what Thompson's potential is. The question is do you take a chance now or wait till next year when he is at full strength?
USC QB Matt Barkley was unable to throw in practice for the second consecutive day. Aaron Corp has been praticing with the first team this week. If Corp starts they don't lose except game experience. He is older and more mobile than Barkley. An injury to his knee held him back in camp.
Taylor Mays is still out of practice and could stay out the rest of the week. Carroll said Mays would be much more likely to play without practicing than Barkley, given Mays' experience in the USC system. If Mays can't play, backup Drew McAllister looks ready to go after missing last week's game with a hip injury.
Oregon got a much needed last minute win over Purdue at home last weekend. The win takes a lot of heat off of new Duck coach Chip Kelly. The heat however is back on this week with Utah visiting Eugene this weekend. The Ute's are ranked 17th in the country and represent a step up in competition even though they had a tougher than expected time with San Jose State last weekend. If the Ducks can get by the Ute's they will be in a better position to accept the upcoming shellacking they are going to get at the hands of California. If they can go 2-1 during the non conference slate they will have dodged a major bullet. That being said holding off Purdue in the last seconds at home doesn't impress too many people. This weeks game is pivotal for the Ducks.
Bruins in Ruins?
The loss of QB Kevin Prince to a broken jaw for at least four weeks is a crushing blow to the UCLA offense. UCLA has been through this scenario before as one by one their QB's have gone down in recent seasons. Next up is true frosh Richard Brehaut who will get the first snaps of his career against Kansas State on Saturday. Behind him is Kevin Craft who started last season. UCLA is going to need to ride this out with their defense because even with Prince their offense wasn't working. K-State isn't very good this season so I think the Bruins should be able to make do this weekend. UCLA has a bye on September 26th which helps matters.
With Notre Dame in the lead late in the game all Charlie Weis had to do was intruct his team to run the ball, take time off the clock, make Michigan use up it's time-outs, and control the game. Charlie for some reason had other plans. He ordered pass plays, he risked interceptions, and Clausen failed miserably, unable to connect with any of his receivers, some of his passes flying wildly off-target.
"I think it was mistake that they were throwing the ball because they let us save our timeouts," Forcier said. "Those timeouts definitely came in handy. I wasn't expecting them to throw the ball. It really helped us."
Weis called for two long passes when Notre Dame led by three points and probably could have iced the game with a first down. Instead, the Irish had to punt, leaving Forcier time for the winning drive.
The Irish faithful are not happy. This is one of those games that a coaches arrogance and lack of common football sense turned a sure victory into a painful defeat. Weis is running out of chances to get it right.
Quote of the Week
Hawaii center John Estes: "Frankly, Central Arkansas is a much better team (than Washington State). All this stuff about struggling against a I-AA team ... a football team's a football team. We knew we were going to beat Wazzu. We should've put up 70, but we made a lot of mistakes."
I listened to a bit of the game on radio coming back from the Husky game and was really surprised by how flat WSU came out in this one. It is pretty obvious that Coug's are a mess and Wulff isn't the guy to clean it up. Rumors are floating around that he will be fired before the end of the season even though they probably don't have the money to do that.
One guy to keep an eye on is Idaho coach Robb Akey who impressed me on Saturday. His Vandals came out and played for 60 full minutes and had a superb game plan. I would hate to see Idaho lose another coach but if he strings some wins together it will be hard for WSU to resist plucking him. As one of our posters said it isn't like he has to buy a new house and move his family to take the job.
On a sidenote Wulff announced that he is ditching Kevin Lopina in favor of the Lobster this week at QB. It doesn't really matter who starts at QB because SMU is going to smoke these guys to the tune of around 50 points on Saturday. True frosh Jeff Tuel is also scheduled to get some snaps. Throwing a true frosh into this mess smacks a bit of Willingham like desperation. Burning this kids redshirt isn't even close to being WSU's answer.