Who is the 2019 USC Trojans?
They are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish of the late 2000’s under head coach Charles J. Weis.
When Clay Helton took the USC job, the Trojans were a program in disarray. Then two coaches removed from a legendary, national championship winning coach, Helton had never been a head coach before in his career, he was a career offensive coordinator. Sound familiar? His first year in LA he stormed out to a nine win season regular season on the arm of his quarterback, that left Mel Kiper’s mouth agape... It’s starting to get eerie right?
His second round at the Trojans, once again, won a number of games...however the cracks began to show. A blowout lose at their rival Notre Dame, 49-14, showed them as a paper tiger and the curb stomping at the hand of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Cotton Bowl cemented that fact.
We all remember that happen in 2007 right? Trotted out a freshman QB, first losing season since the early 00’s, all and all an embarrassment that put Charlie on the hot seat despite his early success. Well, the 2018 USC Trojans essentially mirrored that with a record of 5-7, going 1-5 down the stretch losing to abjectly awful Cal(7-6) and UCLA(3-9) teams.
So where does that leave us in the year of our Lord two thousand and nineteen? What does it all mean Brendan? Let’s dive in shall we? Let’s look at the 2008/2009 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, what do we all remember about those teams? A prolific passing game highlighted by Golden Tate and Michael Floyd. The running game? Essentially non-existent. The offensive line may as well have been called blue cheese any time they faced a decent pass rush, because they crumbled.
The 2019 USC Trojans are almost a complete mirror image. Michael Pittman, Amon-Ra St Brown and Tyler Vaughns highlight a dynamic receiving corps. Pittman is the Michael Floyd of that group, a big strong receiver and a fantastic blocker. Golden Tate and Amon-Ra St Brown couldn’t be more similar as they are smaller, flashy receivers who will burn you once they have the ball in space. Sounds scary right? Mmm...Well...those 2008/2009 ND football teams went 13-12...There were issues elsewhere. USC has issues that mirror those of the late stage Charlie Weis teams. Look no further than the USC running game. For as prolific as those receivers are? Well...The running backs are just kinda...meh. As a team, they are 79th in the nation at 4.18 yards per rush. That’s pretty terrible right? It’s even worse when you consider that they have only allowed 6 sacks for -50 yards(Both Kedon Slovis and Matt Fink are one read, under four second release QBs). They ran for an embarrassing 13 yards on 23 futile attempts in a win against a solid Utah front. Sure, they set a high water mark that keeps that average above the Mendoza line against Washington, to the tune of 212yards on 33 carries. But keep in mind it was 13 for 168 in the second half rushing, when they were down by 3 scores, including a 35 and 60yd rush. Yes, they still count but when you’re losing a football game 20-7 and 28-14, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not impressed by your ability to rack up meaningless yards, especially given they were averaging 3.6ypc before that game.
Defensively, this USC team is more of a disaster than a cursory glance lets on. They are 54th in the nation in points per game allowed at 24.8. That’s not bad right? Well...
- Fresno is 63rd in ppg
- Stanford is 110th in ppg
- BYU is 104th in ppg
- Utah is 59th in ppg
- Washington is the bell cow at 37th ppg(They lost football games(plural) 20-19 and 23-13)
They are allowing a robust 5.73 yards per play(Notre Dame in 2009 allowed 6.19ypp) and are positively getting gashed in the passing game. They’ve allowed 50 pass plays of 10+ yards, which ranks them 89th in the nation. So while they have a fantastic safety in Talanoa Hufanga(Harrison Smith anyone?) the rest of their secondary is prone to get burned.(8 passes allowed of 30+ yards despite not having faced a single top 55 passing offense) They aren’t turning teams over, with a scant 6 turnovers gained(89th nationally) and aren’t making plays in the backfield with just 31 tackles for loss.(69th nationally...nice)
What does this mean for Notre Dame in the match-up?
USC is coming to town with a freshman quarterback making his second career road start and just his fourth start overall. Did I mention the game is at night? The temperature at kickoff will be around 48 degrees, it hasn’t been below 71 degrees in LA since February, when it hit a 60 year low of 60.8 degrees. The last time QB Kedon Slovis played a full game(on the road I might add) he completed three passes to BYU defenders. There seeming is a growing amount of pearl clutching leading up to this game from Irish faithful, to that I say:
This Trojan team is on the brink of their season falling into the abyss. USC is 122nd nationally in turnover margin, it’s time for Kyle Hamilton to introduce himself to the nation with a couple of picks and for this Notre Dame announce that they are a driving factor in the 2019 playoff race. Do you recall what happen when Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame team went to Southern Cal in 2008? ...Neither do I, however, I think USC fans are going to have the same issues remembering this one, as the route will be on midway through the third quarter.