SC got a big and convincing win last Saturday in Lincoln for everyone to see. But the work is just starting and SC has a lot to do if it is to find itself in the Big Easy in January. That's work starts today as PAC-10 Conference play against Washington State. I'm not worried about USC scoring points but I am a little concerned that they could give some points if they don't play up to their potential especially in the secondary.
The strategy has proved effective: USC has won two national titles and five consecutive Pacific 10 Conference titles under Carroll.
The bend-but-don't-break scheme will be put to the test today when the top-ranked Trojans begin conference play against Washington State at the Coliseum. USC has won 34 consecutive home games.
The Cougars (2-1) are led by quarterback Alex Brink, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound fifth-year senior who has passed for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions this season. Culver City High alumnus Michael Bumpus and Brandon Gibson are Brink's favorite targets.
"He has total command of our offense," Washington State Coach Bill Doba said of Brink. "I promise you he knows more about our offense than I do."
USC surrendered 159 yards passing in its opener against Idaho and 389 last week against Nebraska.
The yardage totals have led to suggestions that the secondary is a weakness in an otherwise stout defense.
That last sentence I think is fair. The loss of Josh Pinkard definitely hurts us but SC did it without him last season so this shouldn't be a shock to the system. This is the only real thing that concerns me in this game. If we can't shore up the secondary now it will provide a greater opportunity for teams coming up on the schedule to exploit the secondary.
The Guys over at USC Sports Talk have a great look at the match-ups in the secondary
Thomas is likely to line up in the slot as the nickel back in this game, which means that he'll draw the assignment of WSU's slot back, and most reliabe WR in Michael Bumpus. The Trojans play a lot of zone coverages, but when they do decide to lock up man to man, it is imperative that Thomas plays Bumpus tight and wraps up the receiver immediateley after the catch. Remember, Bumpus had a big game against the Trojans last season. If Thomas can disguise his coverages, than he'll make it harder for Brink to anticipate where he wants to go with the ball and prevent him from zeroing in on his guy. Otherwise, it'll be a very long night for Mr. Thomas.
USC CB's Cary Harris and Shareece Wright vs. WSU WR's Brandon Gibson and Charles Dillon
With Thomas playing the nickel spot, Harris and Wright will be on the outside defending against the flanker Gibson and the split end Dillon. Gibson, who leads the team in receiving yards, is probably the Cougars most dangerous WR, while Dillon is a perfect complement to Gibson and Bumpus. Alex Brink is very good at distributing the ball to all of his weapons, so it will be difficult for the Trojans to key on any one WR. It will be important for Harris and Wright to stick to their defensive assignment, play tight coverage, and tackle well in the open-field.
Pretty good insight. Brink is having a great season so far leading the PAC-10 in passing and he is put himself in the company of some pretty good Washington State QB's like Jack Thompson, Mark Rypien, Timm Rosenbach, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf, Jason Gesser and Matt Kegel. Rypien is my favorite of this group from my days of living in the D.C area and watching the Redskins, he has represented WSU well. Brink had his way with us last year until he forced his last throw right into Taylor Mays' hands at the 4-yardline. Brink has to be excited with opportunity of facing a Trojan defense that 355 yards passing last week against Nebraska. That is right in his wheel house as he has shown what he is capable of and what it takes to win. As is always the case WSU will get up for this game and try knock off the #1 team, the last time they did that was against ucla in 1988.
The other thing to look out for is WSU Head coach Bill Doba. Doba is a bit on the hot seat but he comes in with a coaching staff that has played the Trojans tough before. But even Doba knows he is in a bit of a catch-22.
Doba admits the Cougars' best chance of winning is for WSU quarterback Alex Brink to have an extraterrestrial day throwing.
But to counter the Trojans' athleticism and pass rush, the Cougars will need to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid sacks. But that raises another problem.
"When you throw it quickly, the corners sit on that thing and the next thing you know you've got interceptions," Doba said.
If SC plays up to what they are capable of that could very well be the case the question is what's it gonna be??