Three Thoughts: USC-Stanford
USC is to young to compete with top teams on the road
USC is an impressive young team but way too young to compete with a legitimate conference championship contender on the road.
The defense is just a little too green outside of Cam Smith, Porter Gustin and Marvell Tell. In a game where the Trojans had to play perfect defense to have a chance, they didn’t. There were one too many contain breaks on Bryce Young runs and there were no big defensive plays. That being said, the defense was much, much better than it was against UNLV. I think USC proved it has a solid defense that can play with most teams, but that unit had to have an epic performance to keep this offense in the game. That didn’t happen.
The same goes for the special teams. John Baxter’s unit played phenomenal football, played even better than the defense did. But it wasn’t perfect. There was a missed field goal, missed opportunities for blocked punts and no plays that led to points. USC needed that to stay in this game and it didn’t happen.
As for the offense, it was far from a good day. It was a bad day. The Stanford secondary outplayed the USC receivers, JT Daniels looked very much like a true freshman for the second consecutive week. The offensive line was poor. But the offense is too young to be expected to hang with Stanford. The one disappointing group was the offensive line. They couldn’t get a run game going and they didn’t protect well. They’re the experienced group that should play better and give the offense a chance. That’s the unit that had USC fans getting excited about this offense. They disappoint again.
Let's dive into this offensive line for a minute. It features Chuma Edoga, Toa Lobendahn and Chris Brown, all experienced players who were hyped as talented coming out of high school. All three of them should have been developed better throughout their career and should be much better at this point. Austin Jackson was hyped as a potential first round pick, he’s not that. The rest of the cast is young or decent back up players so I don’t have issue with the depth. But the top end talent should be better. That’s indisputable. The difference between USC’s line and Stanford’s line is shocking. The Trojans needed a Stanford like offensive line to have a good team this year and that’s clearly not happening.
But outside of a disappointing line, USC is just too young on offense to have such high expectations.
It would have been nice to see USC call the game to win
I didn't think USC had a chance to win this game and there were many parts of this game that impressed me. I didn't expect USC to score at all. It happened. I didn't expect the USC defense to hold Stanford under four touchdowns. It happened. I didn't expect the special teams to play the way they did.
But the USC coaching staff seemed to call the game like they agreed to heavily with my pessimistic view of young football teams. It felt like the offense was tailored to keep the game close and not to win. I would have liked to see downfield shots and a heavy passing emphasis late.
The future is bright
Yes, USC loss. Yes, it was a blowout loss. Yes there’s weapons on offense and maybe three points is inexcusable. Yes, USC has an experienced offensive line and it’s better. Yes, there’s a couple of names of defense that was expected to be way better by some. But this team should never have been expected to compete for a title.
USC has a freshman quarterback. He’s talented but he’s clearly a freshman. Two straight weeks that’s been clear. That’s the end of the discussion of any type of championship, this year. In fact, USC’s best players on offense are two freshmen and a sophomore. If a line develops around them and if the receivers continue to churn out the way they do at USC, this could be a scary offense... a year or two from now. Not now
The same line of thought goes for the defense. It should have never been compared to the 2008 team. That’s insane and unfair. Quite frankly, it’s also stupid. USC can play some good defense. I think that was proven tonight. But with the young names underneath the starters on defense, the ceiling is so much higher in the future than it is now.
So cheer up Trojan fans. This is one of the most talented young teams I can remember. USC’s 2019 and 2020 seasons might be ones to remember. 2018 probably won’t be but that’s okay. The future is bright.
And I don’t think anyone can question this statement: Even in defeat, USC played way better this week than last week. That’s a positive sign for the future.