A Look Behind Enemy Lines

Bayou started off the week talking about some of Lane Kiffin’s…uh…unique coaching habits. Twibby scratched the surface of the 2012 edition of the USC Trojans yesterday. Today we are going to go a little bit deeper and check out just exactly what stands between the Irish and a chance at a national title.

The biggest news of course, is that former Heisman hopeful, Matt Barkley, will be out of this Saturday’s contest with a sprained throwing shoulder. Now, while I wouldn’t put it past Kiffykins to try to pull a fast one on us, I have a hard time believing that even Lane Kiffin would dare pull a stunt like that. So let’s just assume, that redshirt freshman, Max Wittek, will be under center for the Trojans.

What do we know about Wittek? Very little, besides the fact that he might just regret saying this:

We haven’t got the full game plan yet, but from what I can tell, we’re going to play our offense, whatever coach (Lane) Kiffin feels comfortable giving me. If he wants to air it out, let’s air it out. If he wants to pound it on the ground, let’s do that. Like I said, I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play within myself, within the system, and we’re going to win this ballgame.

Poking the bear already, kid? Brave. I salute you for your courage, but question your intelligence for doing this before you face the toughest defense your team’s seen all season and right after the guy in front of you got broken.

To be fair though, Wittek does actually have some legitimate reasons to have some confidence. This is, after all the 27th best offense in the nation, led by their 20th ranked passing attack. While Barkley is a large reason for this success, actual Heisman hopeful, Marqise Lee, and Robert Woods have had a large part in this as well. While most expected Woods to have the biggest impact, Lee has proven to be the most dangerous offensive weapon on USC’s roster. Lee is second in the nation in both receptions/game (9.73) and receiving yards/game (145.91). Apparently, he can play a bit of defense too…but don’t expect it.

Further, and likely the biggest concern for the Irish, is the explosive play potential for the Trojans. Southern Cal comes in 10th in the nation for explosive drives with 24% of their drives ending in an average of 10 yards/play (this is one of those fun stats from Football Outsiders).

While the Irish defense showed that they could hold up against a powerful offense like Oklahoma, the Irish have yet to face an offense with this kind of explosive potential. The young secondary will have to ensure that they again keep all plays in front of them and don’t let USC gain any momentum with a huge play.

While much has been made about the Trojan defense being a weakness of this team, especially after Oregon put up 50+, they do have some potential to cause the Irish some issues. In particular, keep an eye on the Trojan pass rush that ranks 4th in the nation with 3.82 sacks/game. Should the Irish line have issues protecting Everett Golson, there is a huge potential for the young QB to have some mistakes of his own. Further, keep in mind that USC ranks 5th in that nation in tackles for a loss, coming in at an even 8 TFL/game.

So yes, the Trojans defense has proven beyond beatable, but considering the Irish have demonstrated offensive struggles of their own in the past, this battle will be far from a pushover.

Some other fun facts about the Trojans this season:

  • USC has faced four currently ranked teams in the BCS top 25 (Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, and Arizona), and has lost all of those matchups.
  • USC has been great at home, 5-1, with their only loss coming to Oregon.
  • USC’s best offensive performance came in that loss to Oregon. Their second best came against lowly Colorado. Pac 12 defenses y’all.
  • USC’s worst offensive performance came against Stanford. Oregon feels your pain.

And perhaps most importantly, the last time Matt Barkley was injured and didn’t play against the Irish, the Trojans lost at home to a Tommy Rees led Irish squad in 2010. Here’s hoping history repeats itself.

I hear Miami is fantastic in January.

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  • http://ndnation.com a68domer

    It is currently a little chilly in SoFlo right now (high 77) but should be fantastic by Jan 7. Hey IRISH, Come On Down!

  • https://twitter.com/#!/GrantlandX Grantland-X

    “And perhaps most importantly, the last time Matt Barkley was injured and didn’t play against the Irish, the Trojans lost at home to a Tommy Rees led Irish squad in 2010. Here’s hoping history repeats itself.”

    NDTex wants Tommy to QB again this week — got him on the bandwagon!!!

    • trey

      I saw a Texas HS game last week where the winning team put in their 2nd team and took a knee with 7 minutes left in the game. If that’s where Tommy gets his snaps, I am ALLLLLL for that

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