Weekly Musings – Stanford Debacle Edition

I like writing these musings at 4:00 in the morning on Monday rather than at the crack of dawn on Sunday, the morning after the game, because it gives me a little time to let some of the emotion out and some more reflection in (note to many chat room participants: consider the same). I am not less concerned this morning than I was yesterday, but I am less antagonistic. The reality is that it was a bad weekend for Trojans, and a really disruptive week around the country as well. Let’s start there and come back to the men of Troy …

– Ohio State was, in my opinion, going to lose their #1 ranking after a nail-biting, barely held-on win over Northern Illinois (one touchdown and easily could’ve gone to Overtime). However, the #2 team in the country LOSING their game took that off the table. The Alabama loss does nothing to take them out of playoff contention – nothing. The SEC champ will be in the playoff whether they have 1, 2, or even 3 losses (MAYBE not 3), and we all know it.

– But Alabama does have problems. Not only is their Quarterback situation problematic, but a little team in Oxford, Mississippi seems to own them. In Tuscaloosa? Ouch. For those who missed the game, there was one of the truly bizarre and incredible plays I have ever seen worth watching here

– I didn’t see the Ohio State game but that is truly a weird deal that took place there. Anything can happen every single week.

– Auburn will not be back in the top 25 all year

– I am skeptical that Michigan State is the #2 or #3 team in the country but it would make for the first Big 10 game that anyone cares about since the 1970’s

– The other USC had a pretty tough weekend too. Not looking pretty in Columbia. Is it time for Spurrier to go?

Let’s talk about my USC now. At the end of the day, one forced punt to start the first half and one to start the second half, and NO OTHER PUNTS FOR THE STANFORD OFFENSE THE ENTIRE GAME, is simply inexcusable. This was a Stanford team that two weeks ago could not get a first down against Northwestern. It was a pitiful defense effort, and one that I am very skeptical is going to be fixed any time soon. This defense has Sua Cravens, and then it has very few others capable of making plays, containing the edge, putting pressure on the quarterback, or handling straight man assignments. And this has been the case for several years now … I haven’t paid attention to the Sark haters since the game so I do not know what their chorus is saying, but this was a unique loss for USC since Sark arrived in this sense: I really doubt anyone is blaming this on clock management, play calling, or some particular aspect of game time coaching. This was just a BAD defense that got exposed by what had been a BAD offense (but on Saturday looked like the Patriots). It was all my worst nightmares come true: A USC team that played too junior high teams at home to start the season, then gave up a game in the Coliseum to start conference play against a team that has absolutely no business beating the talent of our Trojan offense. I still believe this offense will average 40 points per game, but this defense has no chance – none – of beating the stalwarts of the Pac12 conference if they are as bad as they looked on Saturday. There was poor talent, poor execution, and poor adjustments, but there also was poor effort. Poor discipline. Insane penalties. And the most unforgivable thing in college football:

That gnawing sensation that whatever the other team does on offense on either first down or second down is IRRELVANT, because you known darn well they will convert on 3rd down. It is the defining hallmark of a team that will lose 3 games if they’re lucky and 5 games more realistically – a team that cannot get a stop on a third down to save their lives. Stanford converted 67% of third downs, everyone of which mattered, while USC converted 40% of theirs, of which every failure mattered.

I like our offense. I like the play-calling. I like the establishment of the run game. I like the minimal horizontal passing that goes on. I like the speed of the tailbacks. I love finding JuJu in space. I love the way we get receivers the ball to make plays near the goal line. But we can’t win if we give up that many yards and that many points. And we can’t win if we have the ball 30% of the time. Penalties, Time of possession. Third downs. Nothing else needs to be said.

Can this season be salvaged? Of course. Can we still have a great and even phenomenal year with one or two losses. Certainly. But will we end up with just one or two losses? You tell me. Something has happened where the front seven of USC’s defense cannot rush a quarterback, cannot contain an edge, and where the secondary cannot make a play. I don’t believe we’ve forced a turnover since 2008. Is it cultural? Perhaps. But it needs to get better, or we are in for a long year.

I imagine the negative idiots are not offering objective commentary right now so much as celebrating a loss for the coach they hate, who happens to coach the team they pretend to love. I want nothing more than for Sark and this coaching staff to win every game. But what the men of Troy need to remember is that run-first offenses make pass-happy offenses very productive, and that defenses win championships. The first part we are finally getting. The second part is what our season will be made by, or broken by.