LOS ANGELES — When you are ranked No. 4 in the nation and just soundly defeated Stanford, there must not be too many things to improve. But USC still has plenty of room for improvement, especially if it aspires to be a College Football Playoff team.
So here are 10 things for USC to improve against Texas:
1. Win the turnover battle: USC has committed four turnovers and forced only one in two games. When Pete Carroll coached at USC, he used to get frustrated when the defense did not force turnovers and would practice having them strip the ball.
2. Fewer penalties: The Trojans average 92 penalty yards per game, which ranks No. 119 nationally. That is the sign of an undisciplined team. Is the motto, “we’re just too talented so it doesn’t matter” going to carry USC past Alabama?
Spare the complaints about the officiating. There were two different crews for the two games. No one is against USC.
3. Get in the right formation: So Stanford has two tight ends and a fullback and USC lines up in a nickel defense? No wonder Bryce Love went 75 yards for a touchdown. The wrong formation is where the problem started.
“Our goal is to keep everyone under 100 yards,” USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said Wednesday. But Love gained more than that in the first quarter.
Pendergast often gets complimented like a guru by USC fans and Clay Helton. But the scheme on Love’s run was curious, to say the least.
4. Develop some young receivers: Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell had good games against Stanford. Anyone else? Where are all the young receivers who were hyped coming out of high school?
“They’re green,” USC assistant coach Tyson Helton said. “They just need to play.”
It’s the old dilemma about needing experience for a job but never being able to get the first job. Sophomore Michael Pittman showed promise but missed the first two games with a sprained ankle. He left Wednesday’s practice early so appears questionable for Texas.
It would be nice if someone else got an opportunity Saturday.
5. Avoid a letdown: USC enjoyed its victory over Stanford so much, it would be natural for the Trojans to come out flat against Texas.
“The last time we beat Stanford, we lost to Boston College the next week,” safety Chris Hawkins said. “But Boston College was a sleeper team. I don’t think we’ll look past Texas.”
6. Make special teams special: This continued to be a problem from Game 1 to Game 2. The Trojans surrendered a 46-yard kickoff return to Stanford, had an ugly punt and two poor punt returns. Ajene Harris caught a punt inside the 10-yard line and also let another punt roll to the 2 that he said he should have run up and caught.
“There were two errors that (special teams coach John Baxter) coached me up on,” Harris said.
7. Kick a field goal: It’s great that freshman Chase McGrath is 13 for 13 on extra points, but he has not attempted a field goal. Does USC want to wait until a game is on the line to attempt one? Hardly. So if an opportunity arises, it might not be a bad idea to kick one and let McGrath experience one at home Saturday before the Trojans go on the road the next two games.
8. Make tight end a dangerous position: OK, starting tight end Daniel Imathorabhe looks like he will be out with a bruised thigh/hip flexor. But that doesn’t mean Cary Angeline or Josh Falo cannot make an impact.
9. Don’t rely too much on Sam Darnold: The euphoric fans at the Coliseum last weekend didn’t seem to mind that USC was tied with Stanford, 14-14, early in the second quarter and ahead only 21-17 at halftime. But that was because Darnold’s inspired performance glossed over the first-half issues. Darnold can’t always rescue USC. Especially on the road.
10. Cheer less. Coach more: Sometimes the USC sideline looks like a pep rally instead of a brain trust. Granted, most of these young guys are not full-time coaches, but they shouldn’t be jumping higher than the players when Stephen Carr is racing down the sideline.
Powered by WPeMatico