How good is this USC football offense?

USC’s offense is great, but not as great as past Trojan offenses.

By JOSEPH DOMINGOT
Redshirt senior wide receiver Tahj Washington only needs 85 receiving yards against UCLA to reach the 1,000 yard mark. (Ethan Thai / Daily Trojan)

With only one conference game and one possible bowl game left to go in the last season of Pac-12 football as we know it, the main talk around USC football this season has been the team’s defensive struggles. Especially after the team’s recent firing of former Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch, sports media outlets have scrutinized the weaknesses of the Trojan defense. However, the play on the other side of the ball has been beyond explosive this season.

Throughout the entire Football Bowl Subdivision, USC (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) leads the nation in total points scored with 482. Although it has played one more game up to this point compared to other great collegiate offensive teams, USC ranks third in points per game this season at 43.8, behind Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) at 46.3 points per game and LSU (7-3, 5-2 SEC) at 45.9 points per game.


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Led by 2022 Heisman Trophy winner and junior quarterback Caleb Williams, the Trojans also lead the nation in total touchdowns scored this season at 66. Williams is responsible for 40 total touchdowns for the Trojans — 11 on the ground and 29 through the air — which is the most for a single player this season. Through 11 games, Williams has recorded 3,249 passing yards, which ranks second in the country only behind senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. — 3,533 — from Washington (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12).

USC’s playmakers have also seen great offensive success in 2023. Senior wide receiver Brenden Rice is tied for third in the nation in receiving touchdowns at 11. 

It is safe to say that the Trojans’ offense has been electrifying all season long under Head Coach Lincoln Riley? How does it compare to other historic USC offenses in recent memory?

2022

Last year’s Trojan offense had a similar core offensive group to what we see this season at USC, minus current Minnesota Vikings wideout Jordan Addison and former Trojan running back Travis Dye. With a record of 11-3 in Riley’s first year as head coach, Riley’s fast-paced offense ranked third in the country in points per game with 41.4.

With Williams under center for 14 games, he threw for 4,537 passing yards and 42 passing touchdowns. Williams tacked on another 10 touchdowns on the ground for 52 total touchdowns. In total, the Trojan offense scored a combined 579 total points on their way to the Pac-12 championship game and an appearance at the Cotton Bowl.

Williams is projected to finish under 50 total touchdowns this season and around 3,900 passing yards if he keeps his current pace for the next two outings. Compared to last year’s offense, it may be safe to say the Trojans were more efficient on the offensive side of the ball in 2022 than in 2023.

2017

The 2017 Trojans finished with a record of 11-3 during former Head Coach Clay Helton’s second season after being named permanent head coach of USC. With the offense gaining 485.2 yards per game on average in 2017, the Trojans averaged about 32.6 points per game, which pales in comparison to USC’s current offense at around 44 points per game.

The quarterback room was led by Sam Darnold, the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He set school records for passing yards in a season and total scrimmage yards for USC at the time. Darnold recorded 4,225 all-purpose yards, with the majority of his yards – 4,143 – coming through the air. Combine Darnold’s passing stats with former running back Ronald Jones’ 1,737 scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns, this offense was quality despite being statistically outperformed by this year’s Trojans. 

2005

With current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll at the helm, the Trojans won 12 straight games before falling to undefeated Texas in the National Championship Game. USC averaged just over 49 points per game during its run for the national title, ranking only behind Texas, the national champions led by former quarterback Vince Young.

2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was under center and coming off of two straight national titles. He threw for 3,815 yards and 28 touchdowns. However, USC’s offensive scheme was mainly catered toward its efficient rushing attack.

During the 2005 college football season, the Trojans mustered up a staggering 50 rushing touchdowns. In a backfield anchored by 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush and 2005 All-American LenDale White, Bush and White combined for 44 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns. Add that to former wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett’s 1,274 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns, this offense was arguably the most electric at the time and in the school’s history.

USC’s current offense does not really stand a chance against the 2005 Trojans.

USC’s offensive scheme this year is great and statistically better than most college offenses in years past, but it does not meet the standards of that electric 2005 Trojan offensive juggernaut and is missing the all-important national title. 

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