Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It's the Schedule, Stupid.

I realize that not picking USC to win the BCS championship is akin to picking the field against an even-money horse in a field of 12 but I'll edge a little further out on that sturdy limb by saying it won't be LSU, the other consensus favorite, either. Now, if USC does get the BCS championship game, they will win it. Winning their bowl games at the end of the season (minus a super-human effort by Vince Young and several bone-headed plays by the Trojans in that epic Rose Bowl game two years ago) has not been the problem, its been avoiding the in-conference snake pits that has proved to be somewhat troublesome. Just one out-of-conference regular season loss in the last 5 years and a 4-1 bowl record while somehow managing to drop 4 conference games over that same span. This year, they are on the road against Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Cal and Arizona St. Solid to Very Good teams all and outside of ASU, perhaps (who they get in November instead of the ungodly heat of Sept. or Oct.), teams with decided advantages at home.

But that's not what bothers me the most about the Trojans. Last year, they could not run the ball consistently and it hurt them. Chauncy Washington, C.J. Gable and Emanuel Moody all showed flashes but not enough to give John David Booty, a first year starter, time to settle into the offense and he, in turn, struggled at times. This situation continued all year and through the first half of the Rose Bowl at Michigan where apparently at half-time a light bulb went off in the heads of the collective brain trust of the coaching staff... "Hmm... let's see: Can't run the ball, but we do have a very good quarterback, a massive offensive line and a physically dominant set of receivers.... hmmm... maybe we should try passing the ball - try passing the ball A LOT." Poor, poor, Leon Hall.

And this year, it has not appeared that any one of the 8 or 9 four and five-star recruits that are on the Trojan depth chart at tailback has stepped up yet to be the feature back. Maybe someone will at fall practices which just opened this week... and now maybe it won't be as much of a problem now that Booty has a full season under his belt and Lane Kiffin has moved on to the pros which means that Steve Sarkisian has full control of the offense which also means that tactical changes to the offensive philososphy won't wait until the last 30 minutes of the season.

Yes, the Defense will be menacing but with a similarly talented team last year and a schedule that set up much better, the Trojans still managed to lose 2 in the regular season. Unless they can establish a running game, though, I foresee a similar fate this year.

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