USC Football Roundtable: Current State of Affairs

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off an impressive victory over Utah along with some unfortunately decommits from top national prospects, the state of USC Football is in constant flux so luckily, we have all the answers covered in our weekly roundtable.

1. What most impressed you about USC's victory over Utah? What are the biggest areas of concern from USC's win?

CALUM HAYES (@Calum_Hayes)- There was something nice about seeing USC win a grind of a game for a change. This wasn't the victory over Oregon two years ago or even the blowout of Colorado last time the school had the parents in town. It was the kind of win we're not accustomed to seeing the Trojans come away with as of late. In a game where everything was difficult ‎the team still found a way to buckle down and get the win. From the previously maligned (for the life of me I can't remember our kicker's name right now) to the gutsy Dion Bailey, the Trojans managed to walk away with a win based more on heart than skill; something we haven't been able to say for a long time.

WILL LAWS (@WillLaws)- The play of the defense was an encouraging sign (obviously), especially the return of the unit's ability to force turnovers. USC fans surely have visions of freshmen safeties Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III dancing in their heads after the pair each recorded an interception. Those two could patrol the squad's secondary for the foreseeable future. Zero members of the offensive line inspired that sort of confidence in the Trojan faithful. Now that Kevin Graf is injured, USC's O-line will be even more porous. Junior Aundrey Walker, who appeared clueless at times last year at left tackle, has developed a disastrous tendency for untimely holding penalties and is quickly replacing senior cornerback Torin Harris as the Trojans' most frustrating player.

TREVOR WONG (@Trevor_Wong)- The defense played particularly well, even considering the amount of healthy bodies available. It didn't hurt that Utah's starting quarterback Travis Wilson was a little banged up heading into the game, too. More important than just playing stout defense, the Trojans unit forced four turnovers, an area where they had struggled.The biggest concern has to be the play of the offense. Yes, there were also a limited amount of healthy bodies on that end, but 16 of the team's 19 points were generated from good field position off turnovers. Take away what the defense did and it's another ballgame. The offense, for a lack of a better word, was pitiful.

2. How seriously are the scholarship restrictions hindering the Trojans? Do you think it could hinder the pitch to potential recruits?

CALUM- At this point I don't know how anyone could argue the scholarship reductions aren't severely hampering the Trojans. For a good portion of last week it looked like the team would have one scholarship receiver available along with no scholarship tight ends. Things were so bleak the team was looking at starting a receiver who spent last year as a video intern. Awesome for him, less so for a program with 11 national titles. While losing is never good for a program, the reductions could be a good thing this upcoming year (with He Who Must Not Be Named having rolled over a handful of scholarships) and especially the year after. With a thin roster USC can pitch blue chip prospects on the idea of early playing time and hope it's more important to them than unlimited jersey combinations.

WILL- It totally depends on who USC hires as its next head coach. If Pat Haden can convince a proven name like Boise State's Chris Petersen or UW's Steve Sarkisian to come to Troy, then USC should have no problems recruiting talented players. If not, it's surely a possibility with Oregon and Stanford fully entrenched as the conference's best two teams this decade.

TREVOR- It's bad enough to where numerous walk-on players are called upon for key contributions and when Dion Bailey - not suited up in the first half - needs to take a painkilling injection just to play the second half. If I am a potential recruit, it doesn't hinder any pitch. If the injury bug strikes that bad, I receive more playing time.

3. Based on what you've seen of the Beavers, how does USC match up? What are the keys to victory in Corvallis?

CALUM- This one could be rough. Oregon State throws the ball as well as anyone in the country and while the USC secondary consistently gives great effort there just isn't a lock down corner ‎on the roster. A deep group of safeties will only be able to do so much against Sean Mannion and the prolific Beavers passing game. USC is going to need to slow this game down to have a real chance at winning. The offense has to chew up both yards and the clock to give the defense every chance to rest and make necessary adjustments. If Tre Madden and crew can do that the game could be competitive until the end.

WILL- I like this matchup for USC much more than I did last week. In Oregon State's loss to Stanford last Saturday, Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion was sacked eight times by the Cardinal. USC's front seven is arguably just as formidable, if not better, than Stanford's. So the Trojans might disrupt Mannion and seriously throw a wrench into the Beavers' pass-heavy plan. But if they don't, well, the leading Pac-12's leading passer (Mannion, 3,263 passing yards) and leading receiver (receiver Brandin Cooks, 1,256 receiving yards) will probably take advantage of USC's beleaguered secondary. The other side of the ball features an Oregon State pass rush with no players recording more than 3.5 sacks (USC has four), so USC's offensive line actually might not be such of an Achilles heel this week. But don't expect to see any sort of eye-popping aerial attack from the Trojans, who were without Marqise Lee, Nelson Agholor and their three scholarship tight ends during Monday's practice. USC will need to have inspired play from Silas Redd and Tre Madden.

TREVOR- The secondary better be prepared because Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the nation in passing yards (3263) and passing touchdowns (30). USC must put pressure on Mannion; otherwise, the defense will likely be in for a long night. The Beavers, though, have only allowed 17 sacks through eight games, while the Trojans defense has recorded 26 sacks, seventh in the nation. And the obvious key is USC's offense must be a lot, lot better than the last two weeks. The Trojans must sustain drives, and more importantly convert on third downs (they rank 118th in the nation in third-down conversion rate), to give the defense a breather once in awhile against a high-powered Oregon State offense.

FINAL NOTE: One thing to keep in mind about the overall state of affairs comes from an injured warrior working his way back to the field for next season. Now eight games into the season, the Trojans still have much to play for in the final month or so of the Ed Orgeron interim coaching era.

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