2010 Record: (8-5, 5-4 in Pac-10)
Head Coach: Lane Kiffin (2nd Year at USC, 15-11 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2009 Emerald Bowl (beat Boston College 24-13)
9/3: Minnesota (2010 result: won 32-21)
9/24: at Arizona State (2010 result: won 34-33)
10/1: Arizona (2010 result: won 24-21)
10/13: at California (2010 result: won 48-14)
10/22: at Notre Dame (2010 result: lost 20-16)
10/29: Stanford (2010 result: lost 37-35)
11/4: at Colorado
11/12: Washington (2010 result: lost 32-31)
11/19: at Oregon (2010 result: lost 53-32)
11/26: UCLA (2010 result: won 28-14)
2010 Offensive Statistics:
Scoring: 31.0 ppg (4th in Pac-10, 37th in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 189.77 yds/game (3rd in Pac-10, 25th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 241.7 yds/game (5th in Pac-10, 41st in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 431.5 yds/game (4th in Pac-10, 26th in Nation)
2010 Defensive Statistics:
Scoring: 26.7 ppg (6th in Pac-10, 63rd in Nation)
Rushing Yds/Game: 140.46 yds/game (6th in Pac-10, 49th in Nation)
Passing Yds/Game: 259.5 yds/game (last in Pac-10, 109th in Nation)
Total Yds/Game: 400.0 yds/game (7th in Pac-10, 83rd in Nation)
2010 Misc Stats:
Turnover Margin: +0.31 per game (4th in Pac-10, 36th in Nation)
Penalties: 60.9 yds/game (8th in Pac-10, 99th in Nation)
Top Returning Statistical Leaders:
Passing: QB Matt Barkley, Jr (236 of 377 for 2791 yds, 26 TD, 12 INT)
Rushing: RB Marc Tyler, Sr (171 for 913 yds, 5.3 ypc, 9TD)*
Receiving: WR Robert Woods, Soph (64 rec for 786 yds, 6 TD)
Tackles: S T.J. McDonald, Jr (89)
Sacks: DE Nick Perry, Jr; DE Wes Horton, Jr (4)
Interceptions: CB Nickell Robey, Soph (4)
* Tyler is currently suspended
At the end of the 2009 season Pete Carroll saw the NCAA writing on the wall and went pro. USC reached out and grabbed the controversial Lane Kiffin from Tennessee. Despite some odds being stacked against him, Kiffin's team only lost one more game than did Carroll's team from 2009 and actually kept the same conference record (5-4). Last year was a bit more of a struggle for USC than we had seen under the majority of the Carroll regime as the Trojans not only lost five games but they also had six games that were decided by one score or less (three that USC won and three that USC lost). USC was just points from going 5-8 last year, but they were also just points from going 11-2 so in retrospect the 8-5 record seems well earned by the Trojans.
Looking at last year it was really the defense that made the difference for this team. In 2010 the Trojans gave up 26.7 points per game. During the previous four year stretch the worst year had been 19.8 in 2009 and before that it was 16 points per game in 2007. If you give up nearly a TD more than you did the previous year you have to think it's going to cost you a ballgame or two. It's hard to pinpoint just one area for the Trojans as they gave up more rushing yards, more passing yards (the worst in the conference in this metric), created less sacks, and struggled to get their opponent off the field on 3rd down (43.8% opponent completion %). But it's not all doom and gloom for the USC defense. They have talent on the defensive line and defensive backfield and have a lot of those guys back from last year. Look for good improvement from the defense in their second year under Monte Kiffin.
On offense Matt Barkley should continue to improve and you had to be impressed with rising sophomore Robert Woods and the numbers he put up as a freshman. USC has a lot of talent at the skill positions and actually scored more points last year than they did in 2009. There are no freebies on their schedule but it's also not a who's who of heavyweights. The toughest games will be against Oregon, Stanford and Notre Dame. That being said, USC has to be more consistent this year and can't afford a slip up like they had last year when they got rolled by Oregon State. With the Pac-12 being set into divisions this is the year for USC to step back up and prove that they are still the top dog on their side of the fence even if they won't be bowling. To get an inside take on the USC Trojans we caught up with the USC based site The Trojan Empire.
Lane Kiffin made it through his first year at USC. What are your overall thoughts on his performance?
Considering the circumstances, you really could not ask more of Kiffin and his staff in 2010. The newly imposed postseason ban created depth issues, with juniors and seniors allowed to transfer without penalty, and also added difficulty in motivating a team to play a full season without reward.
The penalized team posted just one fewer victory than Carroll’s ’08 Trojans, who had everything to play for. Two games (Stanford, Washington) were lost on a final boot in the closing minute. They fell to the Irish, in Mitch Mustain’s only start, when Ronald Johnson failed to secure what would have been the game winning catch on the final drive. As tough as they played eventual conference champion Oregon for three quarters, USC simply didn’t have the bodies available to continue the fast pace and finish. The fifth loss was in Corvallis, where Kiffin was simply outcoached by Mike Riley, and losing Barkley to injury in the first half made any comeback attempt futile.
Sure, everyone would have loved a 10-win season, but the fact that the Trojans remained competitive, while staring adversity in the face, is not only promising, but is credited to the work of the coaching staff.
USC dominated the Pac-10 from 2002 to 2008 but now they seem to have taken a backseat to Oregon. What does USC need to do to reclaim the top spot in the conference?
What happened to USC was foreseeable, and can be summed up in the words of Roger Goodell---“Welcome to the NFL Draft”. In the timetable given, 51 Trojans have been drafted by NFL teams. 14 were selected in the first-round, and the group includes 22 All-Americans and 3 Heisman Trophy winners. As much as it appears that USC can simply reload each year, the frenetic pace of draft departures takes its toll. Though there is just another five-star inserted to fill vacated positions, there is no substitute for experience. In 2009, USC lost its entire linebacker corps with one swoop. 2010 saw a mass exodus of defensive backs. The end result was one of the worst defenses ever fielded and an 8-5 season.
Though Oregon played for years in the shadow of Pete Carroll’s Trojans, it was never a bad team. In fact, from 2000 to present, the Ducks have amassed just three fewer victories in conference than the more heralded Trojans. Oregon is also 5-4 in head-to-head games played during that period. USC won National titles in 2003 and 2004, before the NCAA approved a 12th game to regular season schedules and the Pac 10 went to a full round robin format. In those championship years, USC never played Oregon.
The Ducks have experienced a surge in recruiting, and of course, that’s one of the issues the NCAA is looking into, with Willie Lyles in the forefront. But USC hasn’t exactly fallen off the recruiting trail, despite sanctions. Getting back to the top is just a matter of balancing youth and experience on the field. As witnessed over the past two seasons, that takes time.
Allen Bradford was a senior last season and Marc Tyler has recently found himself suspended. Who needs to step up at RB this year for the Trojans to be successful?
The Marc Tyler suspension shouldn’t be viewed as a ---“What does SC do now””
I don’t believe his starting role was guaranteed, and the recent events open a door for D.J. Morgan to make a statement, a guy that was already pushing for the start. Morgan had an excellent spring, and was expected to receive a fair share of the carries this fall. With Tyler out, he may be the best option as a runner, where Dillon Baxter will also see time in his All-purpose duties. Remember, Lane Kiffin labeled Baxter as the “next Reggie Bush”. We’re still waiting to see it.
WR Robert Woods had a fantastic freshman season last year. What newcomers do you think will make an impact this year?
My answer would be WR Kyle Prater, who may be lining up across from Woods. He redshirted as a freshman last year, but he’s going to get a lot of looks with defenses focused on Woods.
Looking at the schedule, what are the most important games this year?
Every game is important for a sanctioned team. You want to win them all and make a statement. A defeat leads to a shift in season goals, and if the losses continue to mount, those goals are fewer and motivation less. USC, though it’s a reach with only 12 games on the slate, is still eligible to win the AP title. Without a bowl game, that would take an undefeated season and hopes that everyone else loses at least once or twice.
Aside from that, the three most important are Washington, Stanford, and Oregon. USC is currently riding a two-game losing streak to each, which isn’t pleasant, and would love to see that end. And of course, there’s Notre Dame in South Bend and rival UCLA. A season without a postseason only becomes worse if you lose to those guys.
What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2011 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
In my most unbiased opinion, which isn’t easy at all, I believe this team has the potential to win 10 games. As much as I try, I can’t foresee a victory over Oregon in Eugene. I also see potential trap games at Cal and in South Bend, but I do believe the Trojans get over the Stanford hump in 2011. Much depends on how quickly the newly assembled offensive line can gel, but Matt Barkley still has the best tackle in the game (Matt Kalil) protecting his blindside.
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