Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Blogger: USCFootballNews returns

USCFootballNews is back to answer my questions about the troubled Trojans. In this exchange, he answers questions about the offense, their new look on D and why it seems like things are falling apart. My questions and his answers follow.

1. Everyone knew that USC would face a downturn during Kiffin's tenure because of the sanctions. Is that what we are seeing now or is there more to it? The team seemed to quit during last year's Sun Bowl. Was the Wazzou game more of the same?

USCFootballNews: Sanctions certainly have had an effect on this team. The roster is talented, but not deep. Between injuries and NCAA reductions, USC had less than 60 scholarship players available against Hawaii. In that game, both starting corners got hurt, and the defensive backs were stretched too thin. At one point during Fall camp, USC was down to two healthy scholarship receivers, so walk-ons were getting reps with the first team. Furthermore, to reduce injuries, the Trojans have reduced the amount of contact in practices, and that leaves the team less prepared for full speed Saturday action. But there's more to it. I don't think it's players quitting on the team. I think it's a combination of weak quarterback play and the lack of an offensive identity and game plan that is keeping the passing game anemic. Without any mid-to-long range passing game to worry about, defenses can load the box and protect against the run or the bubble screen and dare USC to throw deep. The Trojans have been unwilling or unable to meet that challenge offensively.

2. Lee was contained throughout the Saturday's game. I imagine BC will do something similar. How do you think the Trojans will respond?

USCFootballNews: I'm not so sure Lee was so much contained as he was under-utilized. People used to joke that the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points was Dean Smith. In 2013, it's been like that with Lee and Lane Kiffin. With Cody Kessler and Max Wittek at quarterback, Lane Kiffin has called very few downfield throws. It seems like every other time Marqise Lee touches the ball, he's starting behind the line of scrimmage, and defenses are ready for it. I'm not sure if the play-calling is just that bad, or if Kiffin simply knows that his quarterbacks cannot complete passes more than 10 yards downfield in the face of a pass rush. My fear is that USC will respond to last week's lackluster performance with even more draws and bubble screens, but my hope is that they will give newly-named starting quarterback Cody Kessler some chances to throw deep to USC's talented receiving corps of Lee, Nelson Agholor and Darreus Rogers. You might even see more designed bootlegs and rollouts with passes to the fullback or tight end.

3. What is your opinion on the transition from Monte Kiffin to Pendergast and his 5-2 schemes?

USCFootballNews: That has been the biggest positive development for the Trojans this year. The new defensive scheme seems to be working. It's faster. It has simpler reads and is easier to coach, allowing the staff to focus more on technique and execution, rather than inundating players with a complex system to learn. It takes advantage of the tremendous athleticism of USC's defenders, particularly players like Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin, who are physically suited to play both linebacker and defensive end. Expect to see USC in the 5-2 about two-thirds of the time, and in the nickel most of the rest of the time.

4. What is your prediction for the game?

USCFootballNews: For the past 15 years, we've come to expect the Trojans to bounce back from upsets with big confidence-restoring wins. I do believe USC will win, but I am not expecting that kind of confidence-restoring performance against Boston College. I think USC's passing game is going to continue to struggle. Still, the offense is long overdue for some sustained scoring drives and with USC's defense, a couple should be enough. I would pick USC to win a relatively low scoring game, with a score of something like 20-14, with some of Boston College's points coming off turnovers.


EL MIZ said...

this will be fun -- which was more detrimental, NCAA sanctions and scholarship reductions or 4 years of Spaz?

i love our team momentum heading into this game -- unlike USC, it seems like we have a team identity and everyone is playing together. i do worry about running against the 5-2; if they have injuries in the defensive backfield, hopefully Amidon can take advantage and we can pass the ball a bit more this week.

even though USC probably has the more talented individuals, i think BC has the better team. hoping we can eek out a victory and go into the bye week undefeated. GO EAGLES

NEDofSavinHill said...

While this game seemed to be a most unlikely victory in August it doesn't look impossible today. USC does have an excellent defense. WSU put up 450 yards on Auburn but could only get about 200 vs the Trojans. On the other hand WSU gave up 400 yards to Auburn and 31 points while holding USC to 200 yards and 7 points. If this game were at BC it would be a toss up. The talent at USC is substantially greater than at Nova or Wake. Most teams that travel from the East to the West tend to struggle. Unless you have a really strong team similar to what TOB produced ( wins at Boise St. and BYU ) success will be difficult. 2. Someone wrote at ESPN that handing of the QB job full time to Kessler may be the trick. Instilling confidence in one QB and eliminating the uncertainty attached to rotating starters. But if that effects little or no improvement what does USC do? WSU and Hawaii may not be capable teams and whereas USC struggled against both it could portend weakness all year long and not just a slow start. If BC wins the turnover battle good things could result Why not be optimistic BC 20 USC 12.

Unknown said...

Do we know yet what local channel is going to broadcast the Pac-12 network or is this something where only Direct TV subscribers will have access?

Big Jack Krack said...

We will have to unveil some new plays, IMHO.

USC is quite capable of stopping Williams. I don't know that they will completely, but if they do, what have we got? Amidon - and then they can key on him.

Go BC - Go Coaches - let's bring some new stuff to this table in LA.

eagleboston said...

Ned's analysis is spot on. I am most concerned about traveling to the West Coast. Even NFL teams struggle with that time difference and travel distance. I think we put up a fight but lose in a close one.

Williams will really struggle to run against the 5-2, so Rettig will have to put the team on his shoulders.

Claver2010 said...

@ Unknown

You can't get it on DirecTV

It's channel 194 in Boston on Comcast

mod34b said...

Here is an interesting analysis of why USC is a bad match up for BC.

USC v BC preview

Analysis seems largely right (some flaws). Williams likely will be neutralized. Our OL will have trouble pushing USC defenders off the line.

Big question is whether our OL can pass protect long enough for Rettig to find a target? Probably not against USC. After 2 TD passes last game, Rettig was 5 for 12, and that is not counting hurries and sacks. So, when it is a pass play Rettig has about a 30% chance of making a completion.

This is going to a tough game for BC.

DoubleEagle2013 said...

Now there is a USC controversy over a player's only meeting the Kiffin didn't know about: http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/college-football/story/_/id/9661183/marqise-lee-confirms-usc-trojans-held-players-only-meeting

If BC gets up a score or two early I wonder if USC will pack it in. I think that a quick start will be key for us.

EL MIZ said...

agree with Double Eagle on getting out to a lead. hopefully we can surprise them with some passes early on, and then pound the ball on the ground with a lead.

mod 34B - that was some good analysis. i would agree, but there are non-football factors on the field. it seems like the con man lane kiffin is losing his grip on the team, and it would not surprise me if there was more controversy as the week goes on. hopefully USC is distracted and BC comes in focused, can force some turnovers on the bad USC QB's (not mentioned in the write up was the turnovers our D has generated) and the in-fighting worsens as the game goes on.


Hario said...

This is as "winnable" of a scenario as we could have hoped for when the season started. BC is 2-0 and USC is in disarray from Lane and possible off field distractions

the analysis linked from mod34b was dead on.. not a great matchup for us.

I hope a second receiver steps it up and Day surprises with a pass heavy attack. We might be able to move the ball a bit better and it would show great week to week flexibility from our coaching staff