On the Defense For all the attention that we give to the offense we don't really look carefully at the defense. We worry about Booty's performance or who is carrying the ball and who isn't, are the receivers playing up to snuff, etc etc.
Before the season started we read in many places how the defense was thought to be one of if not THE best defense in the country. Of course the haters out there thought that this was more fellating of USC before the season even started. But if you look at things carefully the numbers may back up the hype while getting it done quietly. A lot of us are hoping to get to the promised land THIS YEAR but Pete Carroll may shooting a little pool and thinking a few shots ahead...he's getting ready for another run, more on that later.
It is clear to anyone paying attention that both LSU and Oklahoma are having terrific years so far. You can throw Florida in there I suppose but I think LSU takes Florida out as they have something to prove. SC has taken some flack for playing statement-setting games but the fact is they don't need to. As they are getting it done on defense convincingly without all the pomp and circumstance.
Weather we like it or not Pete Carroll is using a bend don't break philosophy in how the defense plays. None of us liked seeing Sam Keller or Alex Brink dink and dunk us then throw a few 20-30 yard strikes but the scores would indicate that the intended effect didn't happen. The trade of here is that Pete Carroll is willing to sacrifice yards for more opportunities against an offense to screw up or turn the ball over. This is just the way Pete Carroll operates and so far it is working for him.
Here is why, their points for/allowed per quarter are very telling:
As you can see USC gives up next nothing for the first three quarters but in the fourth quarter the numbers go up. Why is that? Well it probably has to do with the fact that its garbage time and the reserves are in and because they don't get as much playing time as the regulars.
But there is more, if you look at the tackles by player there is also some telling stats. Stats taken from the USC website.
Starters 127 Tackles
Reserves 70 Tackles
The reserves are getting 36% of the tackles but more telling; third string true freshman Chris Gallipo and Malcolm Smith have a combined 11 tackles coming in on the THIRD STRING! Gallipo is the 14th leading tackler on the team that is pretty impressive. This also shows that Pete Carroll will substitute the 1st and 2nd string liberally as he is not afraid to get other players in the game to get them seasoned or to juggle the talent pool. the only thing little disconcerting is the lack of turnovers we getting. Hopefully that will change for the better.
This defense is taking on the looks of the defenses from 2002-2004. Keith Rivers is obviously having a monster year but he is doing it under the radar. His play may not be spectacular but it is solid and he is seemingly in on every tackle. Ellis along with Rivers are on fire on the defense. Ellis has had some compare him a to Mike Patterson and that comparison is not too far off, as he commands blockers because he's so hard to move and disrupts everything along the line filling the gaps and lanes. Ellis isn't quite as good at getting to the quarterback as Patterson was though. Patterson also commanded blockers because he was simply too quick, too strong and too low to the ground for a single blocker and he required a lot of double teams and extra attention to make sure he didn't move the defensive interior backwards. Patterson was more effective against both the run and the pass while Ellis is dominant against the run and in completely scuttling what a 5-man line tries to set up in the pass and run game.
Some don't see SC's wins as dominant or feel that their wins aren't spectacular enough but they don't need to be, that's cool but the numbers don't lie. USC can flip the switch when it needs to, just look at the third quarter against Nebraska.
No other team can flex its muscles like that and afford such luxuries. The meat of USC's schedule won't really hit for another 4 weeks but now is the time to see what everyone brings to the table, and why not? Pete Carroll has the talent so he might as well take it out for a spin and see what's under the hood. Like I said earlier, LSU's out to make a point, but it is unclear how their defense would perform playing around like this. USC's made its point the last few years and it is clear that they are focused on getting all its moving parts together to make another run. The individual games may not be impressive but single games are not the story here.