Home » blog » No Luck Necessary….

Posted by on September 18th, 2012 in blog, CFF Features, Dan Pierson | No Comments

First off, yes I realize each of my picks from last week’s “Randomness” blog was wrong.  Quick recap: ‘Bama vs Arkansas would be “closer than expected”… um yeah not so much; “filleted Irish”… Notre Dame dominated Sparty on the road; “blackened Gator”… the Vols started strong, but Florida had an astoundingly dominant 2nd half (Jeff Driskel is really coming along, could be star in the making) to pound out a W.  Not a great week of predictions by yours truly.

And oh yeah I made one other prediction – USC would beat Stanford “going away”.  Well for the 4th straight time the Trojans were sent to their rooms (and probably forced to listen to West Side Connection’s “Bow Down”) in defeat by the Cardinal; let’s look at this game in a little more detail and break down why USC once again lost to Stanford.

The main thing that jumps out to me upon closer review is USC’s lack of high-quality depth in their program.  This is no doubt due to the scholarship sanctions imposed upon them… Lane Kiffin can still get the top recruits to come to L.A., but they can no longer get 2 (or more) studs at each position like in years past.  Think about the dominant Trojan squads of the Pete Carroll era… those teams were so good because they could replace graduated players with new studs from season to season.  They could replace injured players with high-quality backups.  As examples, they could replace Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer with eventual Heisman winner Matt Leinart (and don’t forget Matt Cassell didn’t even start at USC but was still drafted), who was eventually replaced by Mark Sanchez; Keary Colbert was replaced by Mike Williams who was replaced by Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith; Reggie Bush split carries with LenDale White, once they left Joe McKnight and Marc Tyler stepped right in.  On and on it goes… the talent pool in Troy was endless.  Saturday night however, the Trojans were exposed for their current lack of depth.  Most importantly they had no answer for the absence of starting center Khaled Holmes.  If you watched this game, you saw Stanford repeatedly blitz and\or overload the center of the Trojans interior line and with great success.  Also in this game both of USC’s top RB’s went out at different points with injuries… and the Trojans were forced to try a converted full-back at RB.  This all accumulated in the Trojans running out of gas against a bigger and deeper Stanford team.

The other important factor going against USC was the hype; I know it is a convenient excuse when a highly rated team loses but in SC’s case it is undoubtedly true.  Since the Carroll days, USC has been the most-hyped team in college football.  Name me another program where Snoop, Will Ferrell, and Flea could catch practice and nobody even blinks an eye.  Name me another program in a city of almost 4 million people yet no NFL team.  Even during their sanctions USC was bound to be among the most talked about team each and every week whether they won or lost.  Fast forward to this season when the sanctions were lifted, Matt Barkley came back, Andrew Luck left, the 2 wideouts were lauded as the best duo in the nation and the hype machine went into overload.  NFL teams often have trouble dealing with that type of scrutiny and pressure… asking this group of college-aged kids to handle it flawlessly was apparently too much to ask.  Listen to some of these quotes from the LA Times by Trojan players regarding their effort against Stanford… “We weren’t as mentally prepared as we should have been,” said TE Randall Telfer.  Added LB Hayes Pullard, “we kind of got basically humbled today”.  Sounds like a small sample of a team full of over-confidence.

Let’s not hesitate to give major respect to David Shaw and his Stanford team, however.  They came in with an outstanding offensive game-plan (F-150’s vs. Ferrari’s is how the game announcers worded it) and thanks to stellar defense vs. Barkley and Co., they were able to keep grinding USC with the run until finally they broke.  The play that stood out to me was when Cardinal QB Josh Nunes scrambled for a 1st down by side-stepping 3 USC defenders, including All-American S TJ McDonald.  Basically it was the epitome of one team wanting it more than the other.

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