Playing against Fresno State, USC faced several things that were completely different -- that they may not see the rest of the season. The Trojans' offensive line played against a very active Fresno front that constantly tried to use motion and slanting to negate blocks. Rather than being physical, the Bulldogs tried to use guile to maneuver by the young Trojans.
The defensive line saw something else that may have been even more unusual this season. Fresno State tried routinely to use cut blocks to chop down the sturdy defensive line of USC. Leonard Williams routinely had to face lineman diving at his knees rather than trying to go mano-a-mano with him. While he said it was a trying experience, he learned from it.
Rather than charging ahead quickly, All-American Williams began anticipating the cut block. He'd wait for the lineman to give up his verticality and leverage, would push down on the Fresno State player's shoulder pads and then became a menace in the quarterback's passing lanes.
Instead of being able to hit short, quick routes to the running backs and slot receivers, Fresno State had to avoid the defensive linemen, and particularly Williams, who finished with an interception and a pair of pass breakups. The linebackers often had to decipher zone read option runs and fly to the flats to help with the coverage of bubble screens.
"We never see a team that cuts that much," Leonard Williams said. "We're going to have a complete opposite game next week where it's going to be big base and big-on-big."
But things will be completely different this week. What Fresno State presented in Week One will be no more in Week Two. Instead, the Trojans head on the road to face a Stanford squad that is known for its deliberate and constant power attack.
Four- and five-receiver alignments? Nah...not this week. Flex shotgun snaps with zone read and zone blocking schemes? Ha. Not even close. Stanford is going to line up and come straight at you. Downhill running and power schemes at their finest.
The spread option offense with four wide receivers and the unique zone read running plays was once the rarity -- something seen maybe once a season from some mid-major team trying something different. Now it is ubiquitous in college football and instead, it is the two-back, two-tight- end or even two-back, three-tight-end power formations that are going the way of the dinosaurs.
Stanford, however, has become a BCS/Power 5 conference powerhouse. No longer do they fit into the group of squads searching for an upset or two a year. Yet, they now have the archaic offense that teams aren't used to facing.
But Stanford's idea of bludgeoning and bulldozing through opponent's defenses is exactly what the USC Trojans seem to be looking forward to.
Linebacker Anthony Sarao says it best in the video above:
"I miss the smashmouth a little bit. I hate chasing bubble screens and zone read. It's a little petty to me. I like that smashmouth."
After practicing against an uptempo spread attack throughout the spring and Fall Camp, the Trojans defenders seem to be salivating about the opportunity to bash against some big bodies and prove their toughness. They will definitely get the opportunity to do so when they travel to Palo Alto.
The Cardinal will bring on extra linemen, extra tight ends, extra blocking backs, extra whatever it takes to show their might on the ground before attempting to pick-and-pop with the play-action pass over the top of the defense.
"We're used to the hard grind of the pro style," Anthony Sarao said. "I'm looking forward to getting back in that box."
Sarao is not alone as several of the defenders seem to be licking their chops thinking about the upcoming big body battle.
"It's going to be big on big," Williams said. "I love playing physical games."