Thursday, October 18, 2007

USC – It’s Worse Than You Think

The SMQ did a recent piece speculating about the coming demise (or at least regression to the mean) of Trojan football.

No offense to the SMQ, but it has already occurred. USC football is barely mediocre at this point. The statistics tell the story.

First, lets look at USC’s opponents this year, and the scores of their games against the Trojans.


Idaho 38-10
Nebraska 49-31
Washington State 47-14
Washington 27-24
Arizona 20-13


Stanford 24-23

Obviously a highly unimpressive opponent list thus far which, according to the NCAA, ranks USC 114th of 119th Division I-A schools for strength of schedule so far.

What is really remarkable about the Trojans this year is not their lousy strength of schedule thus far, but just how poorly they have played against these sub par teams. Against the presently 1-6 Vandals of Idaho, for instance, USC gained 420 yards offensively. Not bad, but look where that ranks against Idaho’s other opponents -

Offensive Yardage against Idaho

Hawaii – 485
Washington State – 445
San Jose State – 436
USC – 420
Fresno State – 416
Cal Poly - 346
Northern Illinois – 344

USC gained less yards against the Vandals – at home – than Hawaii, and both 2-5 Washington State and 3-4 San Jose State. They gained nearly the same as Fresno State. Only lower division Cal Poly, and 1-6 Northern Illinois, had markedly worse.

Similarly, look where USC’s much heralded efforts against Nebraska fall offensively –

Offensive Yardage against Nebraska

Ball State – 610
Missouri – 606
Oklahoma State – 551
USC – 457
Iowa State – 415
Wake Forest – 370
Nevada – 185

Or, defensively –

Defensive Yardage against Nebraska

Missouri – 297
Oklahoma State – 335
Iowa State – 369
Wake Forest – 373
USC – 420
Ball State – 552
Nevada – 625

What was seen as a marquee win at the time is, in retrospect, not even one of the 3 best offensive performances or 4 best defensive performances against the Huskers.

We see similar mid-range offensive performances from the Trojans in the other wins –

Offense Yardage against 2-5 Washington State

Arizona – 567
Oregon - 551
USC – 509
Wisconsin – 486
San Diego St – 399
Idaho – 325
Arizona St – 296

Offense Yardage against 2-4 Washington

UCLA – 537
Arizona State – 523
Ohio State – 481
USC – 460
Boise State – 388
Syracuse – 207

Offense Yardage against 2-5 Arizona

New Mexico – 421
Cal – 421
Washington State – 418
BYU – 392
Oregon State – 351
USC – 276
Northern Arizona – 243

In not a single winning performance this year, against a slate of teams with a cumulative record of 11-23, have the Trojans made the best offensive showing against that team this season. In fact, they have not been better than 3rd. They have ranked 4th, 4th, 5th, 3rd, 4th and 6th.

Defensively they have fared a little better, with top defensive performances against Washington State and Washington (of the teams those schools have faced). But we are talking about the Washington’s here, they of a collective 4-9 record.

None of this addresses the Trojan's loss at home to Stanford. We'll let that one speak for itself.

Quite a bit is made about the poor nature of Hawaii’s opposition thus far, and that is as it should be, because the Warriors have the 119th (worst) schedule in Division I-A. Why isn’t there the same observation applied to the Trojans, who at 114th schedule-wise are not significantly different than Hawaii?

Hawaii is 4th in total offense nationally against that miserable schedule, USC comes in 33rd nationally against a schedule nearly as bad. And this week’s contest against Notre Dame won’t do much to improve the Trojan’s schedule.

By any sane objective standard, USC is not anywhere near the 14th best team in the nation (AP), nor the 13th (USC). I question even their 24th ranking in my own BlogPoll vote. They are probably the 4th best team in the Pac Ten (behind Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State).

Prediction – USC is not ranked in the final polls this year. With the meat of their schedule ahead (at Oregon, Oregon St, at Cal, at Az St, UCLA) look for at least 2 more losses.

Because for USC, the dismal future is now.


Robes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robes said...

Wow - I would love to see them unranked.

Also, as bad as Notre Dame is, they will cover this weekend.

Amos said...

I think USC will still win some big games this year, people have been telling them they're amazingly good for so long, that anytime they play someone not approaching their skills, none of the team or coaches really shows up to play the game. When they play Cal and Oregon, be sure that Carroll will have them ready to dominate, of course they'll still lose to someone bad again this year.

Erik said...

It should be mentioned just how bad Nebraska's players are quitting on their team right now. I'm not sure that (say) last week's Nebraska meltdown is indicative of how strong/weak Nebraska was in week one or two.