It might seem like nit-picking to say that the USC Trojans have work to do following their 55-6 season-opening win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves, but it's a long season and the Trojans have lofty expectations for 2015. So as the USC offense prepares for the Week 2 game against the Idaho Vandals, head coach Steve Sarkisian should focus on improving the team's third-down efficiency.
On Saturday night, the USC offense looked great, putting up huge numbers and breaking off huge gains to run away with the game. But when you break down their effort overall, you see that the team struggled to convert on third downs, finishing the game just 3-for-10 on conversion attempts. That's well off their 2014 mark of 46.6 percent on third down conversions, good for second best in the Pac-12.
Their poor third-down efficiency was covered up by the explosiveness of the offense. USC had 17 plays go for 10-yards or more including a pair of plays that went 60-plus for touchdowns. With how regularly the Trojans were breaking off huge gains, it was easy to overlook the frequency they failed to convert on third down.
As USC moves into the tougher stretches of their schedule, starting in Week 3 against the Stanford Cardinal (the Northwestern game notwithstanding), they won't be able to rely as much on the explosive plays that blew open the game against Arkansas State. If the Trojans struggled to keep the chains moving against the Red Wolves' defense, what kind of struggles will they have against Pac-12 contenders or rival Notre Dame in South Bend October 17?
The good news is that there is plenty of talent and depth on this offense to make the necessary adjustments to improve their third-down efficiency. The offense just needs to tighten things up and execute in those pressure-packed third down situations to create a well-balanced offensive attack that will make the Trojans a force to be reckoned with this season.