Well that was refreshing wasn’t it? The Coliseum was rocking and USC showed up on a big stage against a very good Utah team. Clay Helton has this team playing for each other in a way reminiscent of the days of Coach Ed Orgeron. It remains to be seen whether or not USC shuns the idea of Helton as the future head coach in favor of the likes of Justin Fuente of Memphis, Tom Herman of Houston, or John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens. But I do think that things are looking up in the current state. This season can be salvaged with a couple more wins, most importantly against UCLA at the end of the season. USC has a very tough road test against a sneaky Cal Bears team. Troy Talk will be traveling up to the Weekender to get up close and personal and provide you guys with some hard hitting analysis.
- That throw in the second half to JuJu Smith-Schuster’s back shoulder was a thing of beauty. It was thrown with anticipation, accuracy, and most importantly, confidence. It was said that Cody Kessler told Coach Clay Helton that we should kick-off to start the game to make a statement by the defense. This is the Cody Kessler that I’ve been waiting to see. It wasn’t a perfect game as there were a couple of bad decisions and he was still a little slow to react in certain situations. However, he showed some grittiness by evading the rush. The offensive line was largely ineffective against the pass rush for most of the game, so credit should be given to Kessler for making the most out of a bad situation. Although a lot of the credit should go to the play caller who switched it up to a quick passing game and pounding the ball on the ground.
Running Backs: B+
- With starter Tre Madden out with a knee injury, Ronald Jones II and Justin Davis had to step up big time against the stout defensive front of Utah. After the insane quickness that Jones II showed on his touchdown run, he looked a little bit more human than we are used to. But I’m glad he got more touches. The same goes for Justin Davis. He seems to be very efficient with the touches he receives, and believe it or not I would like to see us emphasize the run even more. We do a great job when we get our running backs into space, so I think the old student body lefts and rights are a great weapon for us. This group gets the extra + added to their grade because of the heroic effort of Soma Vainuku on the dive for the touchdown. I loved the adaptation and emphasis on the power running.
Wide Receivers: A-
- I still firmly believe that JuJu Smith-Schuster is the best wide receiver in college football. Yeah, Corey Coleman of Baylor is putting up some monster numbers, but man nobody really does it like JuJu. He is deceptively fast and his route running is only improving. Not to mention that he just manhandled Utah’s Dominque Hatfield. Like that was just wrong in so many ways. He even pointed to him and asked for it, although I still think he was asking for De’Quan Hampton to block for him. Speaking of Hampton, I really enjoyed his performance and am going to stick with my pre-season prediction that he will be a legitimate red-zone threat this season. There were a couple of tight end throws but I still would love to see more. That might prove difficult as two of them, Taylor McNamara and Tyler Petite, left with injuries this game.
Offensive Line: C+
- This grade is so high mainly for the grittiness they showed in adapting to losing their starting center and even Damien Mama for a part of the game. Chris Brown stepped up for Mama and 3rd string center Khaliel Rodgers impressed everybody with how prepared he was for the situation. There were some missteps by Rodgers, but his performance was admirable and I am hopeful that he can lead us the rest of the season. Chuma Edoga struggled early against opposing defensive end Hunter Dimick, but slightly improved over the course of the game. Zach Banner filled in for Chad Wheeler at Left Tackle and did a great job switching positions midweek. Improvement is necessary if we want to compete the rest of the way.
Defensive Line: B-
- I think there is a lot to be happy with regarding the defensive line’s performance on Saturday. Delvon Simmons had a great game and got some individual pressure up the middle. Antwaun Woods had probably his best game, although I think he can still do better. We stopped the run pretty well considering Utah has one of the best backs in the country in Devontae Booker. But I still want to see more out of the rush end position. There needs to be more outside pressure on the quarterback to collapse the pocket even on four-man rushes. We need to be able to drop 7 into coverage when necessary and still get pressure by winning the 1 on 1’s upfront.
- Have yourself a game Cameron Smith! What an amazing performance. His pick six was reminiscent of Rey Maulauga’s against Ohio State all those years ago. Smith is showing that he has exceptional coverage skills and is an extremely cerebral linebacker. He also has proved to be the best tackler (maybe tied with Su’a Cravens) on the defense. This is all coming from a true freshman who will only grow into a better player. I thought Anthony Sarao and Lamar Dawson stepped up and played well. We will need that veteran leadership and consistency as the season progresses.
- I believe this was one of the best game for the defensive backfield. Leon McQuay probably played his best game of his career, maybe with exception to the Nebraska game last year. He looked confident and was flying all over the field making plays. Chris Hawkins continues to impress by being a steady presence and directing assignments. Adoree’ Jackson only played two snaps on defense this game, but I firmly believe that if he plays up to his potential our secondary can do some big things. Biggie Marshall played a great game with the exception of his first penalty, which wasn’t even that bad of a pass interference. The second call against him was just awful and he was penalized for locking his man down. He is going to be a stud in the future.
Special Teams: D
- I don’t think there was one good thing that happened this game regarding the special teams. Alex Wood had a horrible miss on a short field goal attempt, and many people are calling for the kicking competition to open back up. Kris Albarado is again doing a serviceable job, but that kick coverage on Britain Covey’s tremendous return was just abysmal. Not to mention our kick return and punt return game is struggling mightily for whatever reason. Some may cite Adoree’ Jackson’s aggressiveness, but I am pretty sure there is more that needs fixing than just him.
- I think the Trojans had their best performance of the season. But I also think that was largely due to Cameron Smith’s big plays and Travis Wilson’s extremely poor play. If those plays didn’t happen the game would be a lot closer than people would think. I think that our offensive line needs to drastically improve because when that happens Cody will feel more confident and start distributing the ball like he can. The same goes for the defensive line. If they can get more consistent pressure then it will become easier for the rest of the defense to make plays like we saw last game.
Prediction: Cal 38- USC 35
- I may or may not be picking this because it seems that we play well when I pick us to lose. Either way, Cal is a good football team when Jared Goff is in control. If we can get to Goff then this game becomes a lot easier for the Trojans. I have yet to see consistent back-to-back performances from the defensive line, so they will be the group to look at this game. Prove me wrong boys, I like when we win.