Tuesday, August 28, 2012

USC No. 1 in College Football? No Way

Who's No.1 in college football?

If your answer is USC, most likely you're a delusional LA homer who's wearing rose-colored glasses and is totally stoned on local media hype. That's not all. Members of the SC-Is-No.1 club clearly aren't tuned into the SEC.

Anybody who thinks SC tops college football is making several mistakes. First of all, placing
way too much emphasis on offense. No one is doubting that the SC offense is the nation's best. There are stars at every position, from QB Matt Barkley to wide receivers Robert Woods and Marquise Lee to RBs Curtis O'Neal and Silas Redd. The offensive line isn't as loaded as last year's but it's still among the nation's top five.

Great offenses, though, rarely will national titles. They pile up impressive stats and make headlines, but in the post season, it's defense that reigns. Why do you think the defense-minded SEC is on an unstoppable title run? An exception was the Auburn team two seasons ago that edged Oregon in the national title game. In a battle of two powerhouse offenses Auburn won. Why? Because of their defense. It wasn't top-notch, but it turned out to be better than Oregon's.

Second mistake made by the SC-Is-No.1 crew: forgetting how the Trojans' defense is remarkably thin and inexperienced on the defensive line, which is riddled with freshman. Coach Kiffin had the uneasy task of replacing three D-line starters. On top of that, superb defensive end Devon Kennard has been lost for the season. The rest of the starting defense is solid, though. Still, the SC super-boosters ignore the D-line issues. Also, quite foolishly, they swear it doesn't matter that senior CB Isiah Wiley, a first-rate starter last season, is academically ineligible. The secondary will really miss him.

Third mistake: downplaying the overall effect of having only 75 scholarship players, a result of sanctions which limit scholarships. Behind SC's super starting team is a lot of untested four-and-five-star talent. If starters go down, the quality of play at that position goes down too. For instance, behind Barkley looms two raw freshman backups. If a bell-ringing sack knocks him out for a quarter or two, the Trojan offense is likely to sputter. Injuries are part of the game. Will the Trojans dodge the injury bug? Like every other team, they'll get stung. But they have no remedy.

The Trojans' machine-gun offense, by the way, creates problems for the defense. The quick-striking offense will score fast and often, forcing the defense to rack up many, many minutes. The D is likely to buckle under the strain.
Fourth mistake: ignoring the SEC. I have contacts who are SEC fanatics. I've seen many tapes of the best of that conference--Bama, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. They're all good--really, really good. In the Pac 12 only USC and Oregon have a chance against them. Offensively none of the SEC powers can't touch SC but defensively all could slow the Trojans considerably.

Smart gamblers know, when the season ends, SC could easily be a battered shell of the team that starts the season. The word in gambling circles is that, for the national title, big money is going with either Bama or LSU, both of which sport monster defenses, and not offensive power SC.

Again, what wins titles, defense or offense? Follow the smart money.