Is USC over?
They certainly looked lifeless on Saturday night after Arizona State walked all over them, 43-22.
Suddenly that 3-0 record, fashioned mostly by squashing minor teams, was 3-1. SC had taken a shot to the gut and simply wilted.
SC did some things right, but they were overshadowed by all the blunders--ten penalties, four turnovers, third-down failures and missed tackles. The clumsy defense made a good running back, Cameron Marshall, look like Jim Brown.
Surprising loss? Not to savvy insiders, who'd been predicting for weeks this take-down in Tempe, citing:
First: After three relatively easy victories in the cozy confines of the Coliseum, the team had to face a hostile road crowd.
Second: By the fourth quarter, in that near 100-degree desert heat, the Trojans would look like they were running through a field of molasses.
Third: They were starting five freshmen, which translates into a raft of mistakes.
Fourth: Arizona State is by far the toughest team on the first part of the schedule.
After this loss, the Trojans are clearly reeling. What they need is a strong dose of motivation. But that may be in short supply considering they are in penalty hell, with bowls and a conference championship off the table. What do these guys have to play for?
And don't forget, there's another scandal lurking in the background. Coach Kiffin was just cleared of breaking recruiting rules when he was head man at Tennessee. Now former SC assistant Willie Garza, who also worked with Kiffin at Tennessee, is being linked to another violation back then. Since Kiffin was the boss, he is, by implication, being dragged back into the muck along with Garza. A dark cloud over Kiffin is a distraction SC doesn't need right now.
The Trojans may not be dead just yet. They face a lifeline in the form of Arizona this Saturday. This is the kind of team you want to play coming off an ugly loss. Arizona, to put it mildly, is a mess. Let's list the positives. There's a sleek passing offense, led by QB Nick Foles, one of the nation's best. That's it for the positives.
Listing the negatives, where do you begin? The defense is near the bottom in national stats. The D line is bad, but the O line is worse, which rules out any running game. And on and on...
There's a glimmer of hope for Arizona, though. Its 1-3 record includes wallopings by three of the country's finest--Oklahoma State, Oregon and Stanford. So possibly Arizona isn't quite that bad. Maybe it'll have more success playing a team like SC--one more in its league.
The Trojans are hoping that 1-3 record means what a 1-3 record usually means.