Last Season- 12-1, 8-1, beat Penn State in Rose Bowl 38-24
- Pete Carroll did not want it to be this way. He knew that life would be hard enough trying to rebuild a defense that lost its backbone, but he thought that he could count on Mark Sanchez to stay another season. Not only did he think it, he appeared to be dismayed when Sanchez went against his recommendation and entered the 2009 NFL Draft.
Visibly dismayed at Sanchez's "I'm gone" press conference, Carroll seemed to be less than convinced that Sanchez was ready for the pros. Although it's early, all pre-season indications are that Sanchez is indeed ready for life in the NFL. So the question is posed- was Caroll more upset about Sanchez making a "bad choice" or worried about the prospect of installing a new quarterback a year earlier than planned.
I'm beginning to think it was the later.
Mitch Mustain is the only quarterback on the roster with any game experience. In an extremely small sample size (6 games), Mustain has thrown for 2 touchdowns and completed just under 69% of his passes. But the Arkansas transfer isn't expected to get a serious shot at the starting spot under center. That competition exisits between sophomore Aaron Corp and freshman Matt Barkley.
Although Corp was named the starter after spring camp, his hold on the position is not a guarantee come the Trojans September 5th opener at home against San Jose State. He will still have to work to hold onto the position in camp. In hopes of beating out Corp, Matt Barkley graduated high school early so he could play in the spring. Barkley has the stronger arm, but Carroll might be reluctant to start a true freshman day one, especially when so much of the team is being rebuilt.
While Corp may be a bit small at 195 pounds, he does have height and speed. His ability to scramble with the football just may be enough to win him the job.
But quarterback at USC is not a task to be taken lightly. From Carson Palmer in the early part of the decade to Sanchez last season, USC has always based its offense success on quarterback play. This is another reason why I think the job will go to the seemingly well-prepared Corp.
Whoever wins the starting single caller job will be helped by the outstanding offensive line that USC projects to have. The Trojans return five starters led by All-American hopeful Kristopher O'Dowd. He will also have a solid set of skill position players. Fresh off a season in which he caught 58 balls and 9 touchdowns, all-Pac-10 standout Damion Williams returns.
The new quarterback may lead to a heavier reliance on the run than we've seen since Reggie Bush. Last season, running back Stafon Johnson found the end zone nine times. The Trojans will also rely on C.J Gable and Marc Tyler.
Not to be upstaged by the new quarterback-led offense, USC's defense is also in rebuilding mode. When you loose players the caliber of Rey Malaluga, Brian Cushing, and Clay Matthews, your defense is bound to take a hit. Furthermore, when that defense is as reliant on linebakers as USC is, that hit might be huge.
USC is hoping that one big three gives way to another. Chris Galippo, Michael Morgan, and Malcom Smith become the new focal points of the defense. While all talented, they obviously don't have a lot of experience. How quickly they can have an impact will be the biggest question mark.
One of the few returning players from one of the best USC defenses in history is free safety Taylor Mays. The accolades for Mays are endless. He has outstanding instincts, is an incredible athlete, and hits harder then most defenders in the country. His role on this defense is huge.
The questions surrounding USC are plentiful. Perhaps more then any other time during Pete Carolls tenure. While playing in the Pac-10 is helpful, the schedule doesn't do USC any favors. I would not be shocked if it takes USC a few weeks to come together. I think this team has the potential of being outstanding, but not this year. But that's not saying they won't be good enough to win the Pac-10.
I just don't think that they will be in the national championship conversation this year.
And USC is not measured by Pac-10 title.
3 Games to Watch
September 12th- @Ohio State- Talk about being thrown right into the fire. Two games in and this new group gets a tough Ohio State team. Forget about a late September loss killing the national championship hopes, this year those hopes could die in the seasons second weekend.
October 17th- @ Notre Dame- Always a buzz when these two rivals meet up. Expect green jerseys to pop up in South Bend this week. Notre Dame is chomping at the bit to finally knock off the Trojans. A much improved Irish club will finally get their wish this year.
October 31- @ Oregon- This Halloween match up will be the most important Pac-10 match up for the Trojans. Oregon is projected to be the biggest confrence competition for USC. The Ducks will presumably be coming off a pounding of Washington and ready to take it to their conference rivals.