Pac-10 Week 5 Notes and Observations: USC Trojans
USC Trojans 4-1 Overall (2-1 Conference)
This Week’s Score: USC 30 – Cal 3
Next Week’s Opponent: BYE
After a traumatic week of preparation, USC systematically beat down the Cal Bears in Berkeley, while also alerting the rest of the conference that the Trojans are still the team to beat in the Pac-10. SC has now successfully navigated two of their toughest road trips, with two still remaining (Notre Dame, Oregon).
Two things stood out to me in this one. First, I continue to be amazed at the play of the SC defense. As good as the talent level of this D is every year, I expected at least a slight drop in production this season given all the talent that was lost from ’08. Instead, I watched as the Trojans held Cal to its lowest home point total in more than a decade.
Taylor Mays appears to be close to 100%, and he set the tone right away, making a key INT in the endzone and stopping a promising opening drive from Cal that could have resulted in huge momentum for the Bears. Jahvid Best had nowhere to run all night (47 yards on 14 carries), as the SC D stacked the box and dared QB Kevin Riley to beat them. Riley didn’t stand a chance, completing 15-40 passes for 199 yards and a pick. The Trojans now rank No.5 nationally in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense.
The second thing that stood out for me was the play of QB Matt Barkley. Barkley may have been a bit inconsistent, especially when trying to finish off drives, but he also flashed some of the elite skills that make him a special talent (20-35 283 yards, 1 INT). Pete Carroll seemed to like what he saw of the true freshman:
“He is playing as good of football as anybody we have ever had, already”.
Barkley still has a ways to go, but I like his confidence level right now, and the coaching staff is starting to open up the playbook for him. He seems to have developed great chemistry with Damian Williams (8 rec. 101 yards), and now that the field-stretching Ronald Johnson is on his way back, Barkley should be able to showcase his arm strength even more.
USC is off this week, which should allow the team to get healthy and mentally ready for a season-defining three game stretch that includes a road trip to South Bend, a home date with those pesky Oregon State Beavers, and a Halloween showdown in Eugene with the Oregon Ducks in what could be the deciding game of the Pac-10 season.