The third week of a season in most football fans eyes is way too early to use the phrase "must-win", but that is the best way to describe the situation the USC Trojans find themselves in headed into their second home game of the season against the Boston College Eagles.
Since the spring, USC has been a ship without a rudder or more directly a team without a quarterback. That fact became painfully clear when Cody Kessler and Matt Wittek combined for 11 completions on 21 attempts for a grand total of 54 yards and two interceptions against the Washington State Cougars.
There is truth to the rumor that the best quarterback on the team is highly touted freshman QB Max Browne. Although it is fair that Browne has to wait for his turn behind upper classmen Kessler and Wittek. Max Browne's time will come, but Cody Kessler has the proverbial keys to the car. Viewing the offensive talent on the roster and the lack of production on the field it is disturbing and leaving the alumnae in a state of disbelief.
The USC alumnae and fan base are livid, loudly booing and some are calling for Head Coach Lane Kiffin's head that came into the season sitting on the hottest seat in the U.S. next to University of Texas Head Coach Mack Brown. The USC offense appears stuck in a ‘no passing zone'.
It is good that Lane Kiffin has named Cody Kessler the starting quarterback. The question is how do the Trojans fight through their identity crisis? USC and Lane Kiffin are at a crossroads. Saturday's game can make or break the season a scheme change could work wonders. The changes need to start with the play calling. Lane Kiffin wants to throw the ball, but he is failing to realize that with young quarterbacks passing the ball is not the team's strong suit.
When the Trojans pass the ball the quarterbacks are not attacking downfield enough either by design or lack of trust. The Trojans have settled for way too many conservative underneath throws that travel under 10 yards. USC is attacking laterally and not forcing the defense to back up and cover the entire field. Defenses have been literally sitting on short routes and easily take them away. USC ranks 114th in the nation averaging 4.5 yards per pass attempt.
Lost in waiting for the passing game to develop has been an excellent job of moving the chains by the offensive line, whose members have 87 career starts and the work of Sophomore Running Back Tre Madden.
In two games, Madden has rushed for 260 yards on 50 carries. Madden is the first Trojan running back since Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen, to start the season with back-to-back 100 yard rushing games. The best thing Lane Kiffin has done so far was to hire Defensive Coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Pendergast, as advertised has the defensive playing well and firing on all cylinders.
The USC Trojans are the #1 ranked team in the nation in rushing defense, 19th in scoring defense. In two games the Trojans defense has forced three fumbles, has four quarterback hurries, broken up 11 passes and has 11 sacks for 66 yards. Everyone is getting in on the act; two defensive lineman, four linebackers and one defensive back have recorded sacks.
The Trojans attacking defense has been aggressive averaging 5.5 sacks per game. USC's defense deserves better than this offense has provided. The game against Boston College could grease the wheels on Kiffin's exit. It has the potential to become redemption Saturday.
Lane Kiffin needs to rely on the running game and the defense to win games. The Trojans need to establish the run and utilize play action passes that travel more than 10 yards. The receivers need to win at the line of scrimmage and get open. Despite the immense talent of Marquise Lee, Lane Kiffin needs to instruct his quarterbacks the meaning of being ‘number blind' and just hit the open receiver.
Jeff Little is the host of "The Locker Room" a daily sports talk radio show based out of Los Angeles 6-8 pm PST www.sportsjourney.com Follow on twitter @JeffLittle32, Facebook, Pinterest