Cody Kessler (#6) directing traffic during a game, with tight end Taylor McNamara (#48) in motion. Photo courtesy of foxsports.com
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS FOOTBALL – 2015 MIDWAY POINT
Record: 3-3 overall, 1-2 and 4th place in the Pac-12 South
Note: * = leads team
Cody Kessler (QB) – 68.5% completion percentage, 1,818 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT
Ronald Jones II (RB) – 44 carries, *380 yards, 8.6 ypc, 3 TD
Tre Madden (RB) – *63 carries, 356 yards, 5.7 ypc, 4 TD
JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR) – *39 catches, 758 yards, *126.3 ypg, 7 TD
Adoree Jackson (WR) – 11 catches, *25.4 ypc, 2 TD, 279 rush yards, 118 all-purpose ypg
Su’a Cravens (ILB) – 41 tackles, *5.5 TFL, 2 sacks
Cameron Smith (ILB) – *53 tackles
Scott Felix (OLB) – 4 TFL, *2.5 sacks
It seems that this USC football program has been quite the soap opera these past five years, with the sanctions being just the tip of the iceberg as they are now on their fourth head coach (counting interim) in a three-year span.
The firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian, the issues he had that led to his dismissal, and the appointment of interim coach Clay Helton to once again try to save a season in which prognosticators had the Trojans as favorites to win the Pac-12 Conference has been documented to death.
Which is why it won’t be dredged up again in this post.
Clay Helton, the man assigned to save the USC Trojans’ season in his second go-around as interim coach. Photo courtesy of greenvilleonline.com
I must say that the 3-3 record that ‘SC is sporting after six games is a bit surprising, simply because of the talent that those Trojans put on the Coliseum field on a weekly basis; I had them at 5-1, 4-2 at worst when I did my game-by-game season predictions of this team on September 1st.
Indeed, Cody Kessler, his four interceptions in his last two games notwithstanding, is having a perfectly good season if not a Heisman Trophy-caliber one.
But it must be noted that 12 of the quarterback’s 17 touchdown passes have come in the team’s three wins, while four of his five interceptions have come in the losses.
Adoree Jackson, with his three-way duties at wide receiver, defensive back, and returner, has been a true threat.
And my MVP award for the half-season goes to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has emerged as the man on offense as his numbers at receiver lead USC by a long way.
So why are they 3-3 with a head coach fired and an interim coach now at the helm?
One prominent factor is a lack of success in finishing games, such as during the fourth quarter against Notre Dame when they got outscored 17-0, as well as a vulnerability on the defensive line as the leaders in tackles and tackles for loss are all linebackers, Su’a Cravens being the best guy there and on the Trojan defense in general.
And though every player in cardinal and gold will strongly deny it, the turmoil that Sarkisian generated, dating back to his profanity-filled tirade at a booster event held just before the season began, has affected them at least to some degree due to the fact that those ‘SC players are not only human, they are young 18-to-22 year old guys.
All right, here’s the inevitable question: How do I see these Trojans faring in the season’s final six games?
It will all depend on the USC players’ mental and emotional approach.
Even though they ultimately lost, I knew ‘SC would come out hard against Notre Dame due to the rivalry factor and their determination to come together and rally around Helton after all that went down.
I wouldn’t expect anything less of those Trojans going forward, simply because of their well-known pride and “Fight On!” spirit.
As for what their win-loss numbers will look like, I see only Colorado and probably Arizona as more-or-less sure victories as California, Oregon (despite their disappointing season to date), and crosstown rival UCLA (despite their injuries) have weapons that may well cause problems for Troy, but…
I will know a lot more after their upcoming game, which happens to be against a tough, hard-hitting, and undefeated Utah team that’s ranked third in the nation and is certainly looking for respect after the Las Vegas oddsmakers pegged them as three and a half point underdogs to USC in the Coliseum.
A win over the number three team in the country will surely galvanize everyone in the Trojan Family, not just the players and coaches, and I expect the Coliseum to be filled and loud on October 24th as the determination to save the season will undoubtedly be there.
USC’s Song Girls pumping up the crowd at the Notre Dame game. Photo courtesy of fansided.com
COMING TOMORROW: A halfway through the season report of the UCLA Bruins, so don’t miss it!