Friday Night Lights: This Week in USC Football

Nick Entin | Daily Trojan

Nick Entin | Daily Trojan

A short week for the USC Trojans takes them from Stanford to Utah in a six-day stretch. I carried with me all week the disappointment from Saturday’s loss to our bitter rivals in NorCal, but, as always, I welcomed a new game day with open arms.

A reflection on last Saturdays game:

As harsh as it may sound, it’s safe to say the better team won. Stanford was fantastic all night as the Cardinal beat the Trojans by a decent margin. For the most part, USC was unimaginative and disorganized from the get-go. Every season, ‘SC is stacked with phenomenal athletes, but, without a greater sense of cohesion, all that talent will go nowhere. Stanford, on the other hand, was tough, fast, and played as a unit.

The Trojans were going to have to contain Christian McCaffrey, but were unable to do enough to slow him down. ‘SC gave up yards and momentum with pointless penalties and continued to seem confused and flustered at times. In order to have success in the league, let alone against Stanford, the Trojans are going to need greater discipline and situational awareness. Until we fix the tactical and mental discrepancies made obvious by last Saturday, the Trojans are not going to challenge in the Pac-12, as they should.

And now, a Friday-night game in Utah:

Utah is ranked, playing pretty well, and at home. Southern Cal’, on the other hand, is heading to a second road game in less than a week. In the time since the game in Palo Alto, however, the Trojans have been making some changes, the most notable of which is dropping Max Browne in favor of redshirt freshman quarterback, Sam Darnold. Darnold has looked good when he’s been on the field, and this is a great opportunity for him and for USC to turn the season around.  Utah’s journeyman quarterback, Troy Williams, will hope to make an impact after his own decent (but not incredible) start to the season.

This game could really go either way. The Trojans may be slightly favored simply because of the quality they have all over the field. Utah, however, is undefeated and will be fired-up for its first conference game of the season. There are a few keys things to look for in the game tonight. First of all, I am excited for Sam Darnold to get his first start. The fact that this comes against a good program in Utah should only give him added motivation. I’d like to see Darnold take charge of the Trojans’ offense early on and show the league what he can do. Next, the play-calling is going to be very important. Some of the plays against Stanford were either ineffective or poorly timed. That being said, I am very confident that Clay Helton and his coaching staff can hit the nail on the head against Utah. I wrote last week that I wanted to see an emphasis on the running game, and this holds true, but I hope we can find a balance and capitalize on holes in the defense rather than force a run in inopportune situations. Finally, I am begging that we can minimize the penalties. If USC is to be a powerhouse again, we need to stop offering up free yards to the other team; the best programs have the athleticism and organization, but also the discipline to be successful.

Anyway, a Friday away game is still an opportunity to cheer for the Trojans, and I intend to fight on, win or lose!