1. What were the biggest positives to take away from Ed Orgeron's debut? What impressed you the most in victory?
Luke Holthouse: The two big takeaways I had from the game were first that the offensive line looked a lot better and second that the unit as a whole looks more energized. The rushing attack featured five running backs making an impact and the Wildcats recorded no sacks against Cody Kessler. Inside the stadium, I could just feel a much louder crowd, a more raucous band and a more excited group of players on the sideline, though the final score didn't show that much improvement.
Will Laws: Clay Helton's playcalling helped Cody Kessler have arguably his best game yet, considering he didn't have Marqise Lee as a security blanket. The stable of running backs - which will apparently go five-deep with Orgeron at the helm - looked fantastic. J.R. Tavai delivered a breakout performance in Morgan Breslin's absence.
Trevor Wong: Overall, the team just looked more enthusiastic and started strong from the very beginning. It almost seemed like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders. Despite no Marqise Lee, Cody Kessler probably had his best game as a starter, too, but you also have to give credit to Clay Helton's playcalling, which was much more aggressive from the start (two 60-yard plus pass plays for touchdowns in the first quarter alone). The Trojans put up their highest point total of the season, in part because of their third-down conversion efficiency (6 for 13).
Jim Wyzard: That the team rallied in the face of a coaching change mid-stride. But based on some of the things quoted by the players, it is clear they were relieved with the change and welcomed it.
2. What were the biggest negatives to take away from the game? Where did USC show the most vulnerability?
Holthouse: I think the biggest vulnerability is the Trojan secondary. The unit has really been a weak spot all year, especially at the corner back spot. The unit didn't force any turnovers and needs to start flipping possession for the USC offense if the team will have much a chance against superior teams.
Laws: USC's secondary made B.J. Denker look like a Heisman candidate in the pocket, which is not good. How will this defense react when they have to play QBs that are actually competent in the pocket, like Sean Mannion and Brett Hundley? Dion Bailey and Su'a Cravens, who had probably been USC's most solid performers back there, both had egregious mistakes that led to Wildcat touchdowns. USC hasn't intercepted a pass since the Washington State game - will anyone stop that streak against Notre Dame? ...Bueller?
Wong: As mentioned by Will, the USC secondary didn't look quite as strong, particularly Torin Harris. It seemed Harris was burned over and over and over. B.J. Denker threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns! On that note, it was also a little concerning to see Arizona make a late rally without much opposition. The Trojans allowed the Wildcats to convert on 8 of their 17 third-downs (5 for 7 in the second half). That's not a recipe for future success.
Wyzard: Defense was gassed. But that is not surprising given the numbers. Also, coach Clancy's defense does have its fair share of DB's getting burned because the aggressive nature of the scheme.
3. USC heads into a huge contest at South Bend, but what are you looking for from the Irish this weekend that would be a sign of improvement?
Holthouse: If the secondary, as well as defense have as a whole needs to force more turnovers. The team needs more turnovers to start really thinking about upsets...
Wong: The secondary needs to play a lot better and the defense as a whole needs to force turnovers. Currently, USC ranks 80th in turnover margin (-1 for the year). Coach Ed Orgeron intends to rotate more players on defense, which means fresher legs, so that could be a boost for a unit that looked a little tired against Arizona State and Arizona in back-to-back weeks.
Wyzard: I am going to flip this...I could care less what the Domers do! I want to see the SC offense repeat the 2011 game. The USC defense has seen Rees before...he hasn't got that much better if at all. The Domer defense can be beat. That is where the game will be decided.