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Offensive Decline?

The decline in USC offensive production has some fans concerned. When you compare the production of the past few seasons to the explosive production of the Bush-Leinart years it is hard to really gauge just where SC is at. I kind of look at it like being the President, once you have achieved that office there really isn't much more that you can achieve and the only direction you can go is down.

Yes, nothing would us happier than to see SC keep the production level at a constant level but the fact it isn't possible to it every year. Couple that with the wanna-be's from across town who love to point out that SC has not won an MNC since Norm Chow left and you can see where some fans will get frustrated.

As I wrote earlier this year:

The talent that has been amassed at USC over the past coupe of years may not have developed to what we saw in 2002, 03 and 04 but can anyone honestly tell me that had Chow stayed that we would have beat Texas in the 2006 Rose Bowl? In that game we were absolutely decimated on defense going up against a QB that could single-handedly win a game with his own sheer will. Would Norm Chow prevent Reggie Bush from lateraling the ball, which turned into a fumble. When SC came roaring back in the 2nd half I don't recall Chow calling the plays from his home where ever that was.

Can anyone explain to me what Chow did to recruit the talent that he was able to coach and develop? As mentioned above, Chow doesn't like to recruit and Carroll does, so what Carroll brought in talent (Leinart) Chow was able to develop. It was a symbiotic relationship but at some point all relationships end.

The fact is its symbiotic, talent and coaching walk hand in hand and if the stars line up perfectly like we saw in the Bush-Leinart era the results can be simply amazing. Talent alone won't win you championships you need coaching and just having a great coach with a great attitude will only get you so far if you don't talent.

Regardless there has been a decline in scoring since the 2005 season and there is a great write-up detailing it.

The lowest year in terms of points scored during the Pete Carroll era for USC is 2001 at 26.55 points per game in his first overall season at the helm. The highest level is of course the 2005 Trojan edition at 49.08 points per game when Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Steve Smith, Dwayne Jarrett, and others lined up on offense.

The average points per game scored for USC over the seven year span is an impressive 36.24 points per game. The past two years however have been on the lower side of this figure.

(Note: Keep in mind that the 2006 season in college football was effectively 10% shorter due to changes in the game clock rules that year. I will not adjust for that effect but any cross year comparison should probably bump those figures up by roughly that amount.)

A big problem however with looking at the scoring data at this aggregate level is that the total combines so many different factors it is hard to sort out with respect potential sources of the variation. For example in football:

  • The defense scores points at times on safeties, interceptions or fumbles recovered and returned for scores
  • Special team units can score points on punt and kick off returns for touchdowns or blocked kicks
  • Teams typically score on offense at a higher percentage after turnovers by the defense
  • Teams can score on short field (SF) scores (less that half the field) after blocked kicks, or turnovers, or excellent kick returns
  • Teams can score starting from normal medium field (MF) position starting around the 30 yard line
  • Teams can score on long field (LF) drives of 85 to 90 yards or more

Each of these categories is indicative of a different relative strength or weakness in a given year. The first four categories for example are reflective of how defense and special teams play directly and indirectly contribute to scoring by the offense.

This is some excellent analysis especially in how defense and special teams can influence the offenses ability to score.

Making the most out field position and turnovers is the key to the offense putting up points. of course it helps when you have explosive players like Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson and Ronald Johnson who can break big plays to really fire up an offense. Its clear that SC has underachieved at certain points in the last two seasons and that can be for any number of reasons but talent isn't one of them coaching may be a part of some the decline. I realize that he is only in his 2nd year at running the offense on his own but Steve Sarkisian still has a ways to go before he can prove that he is one the best OC's in the game.

This year SC really needs to break out to put this decline behind them. Outside of the offensive line things look good on the offense in terms of experience but it needs to come together.

We will look at the receivers first a little later on today.