October 2, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Huskies kicker Erik Folk (17) celebrates the game winning field goal against the Southern California Trojans during the second half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Washington defeats Southern California 32-31. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

USC Football: Can USC Avoid Being Ensnared By The Trap Games?


In 2006 it was to UCLA in heart-breaking fashion.

In 2007 it was to Stanford, the 41-point underdogs that pulled off an unbelievable one-point upset.

In 2008 it was to Oregon State, for no reason at all.

And in 2009, it was in mind-boggling fashion to Washington, the same Huskies team that went 0-12 the year before.

Four years in a row, USC was poised at the outset to go on a championship run, and each time they dropped the ball. Not to teams at or near their competitive level, but to teams the Trojans had absolutely no business losing to.

If USC has a weakness it is this: the trap game. Recently, the Trojans have fallen victim to it every time.

The stadium lights have yet to come on for the 2012 season, and already many have USC picked as one half of the BCS Championship game. According to Vegas, this squad has 3/1 odds to win it all. Really, these predictions make sense: USC ended its season with a triple-OT classic against Stanford, a dominating win over the Oregon Ducks in Autzen, and the-football-monopoly-in-LA-is-definitely-NOT-over beat down of their cross-town rivals, UCLA.

Oh. And then Matt Barkley made Christmas come early when he announced he would be returning for his senior year.

Those reasons, coupled with the fact that USC is returning an extremely experienced squad would suggest that, yes, the Trojans will make a run for Miami this fall. Furthermore, the Trojans get to host Oregon—a team that will have rookie Marcus Mariota at the helm instead of Darron Thomas—Cal, and Notre Dame at home, while other nemesis Stanford will have to completely rebuild its offense after the spectacular seasons with Andrew Luck.

But—and there is always a but—USC has at least three games—at Utah, at Washington, and at Arizona—on its schedule that are definitely traps and could derail its whole season.

To be sure, ‘SC’s history of choke jobs can be tied to Pete Carroll, who often played down to the level of his inferior opponents, which led to his team’s demise. But even under Lane Kiffin we have seen USC drop games, like when it lost to ASU last year, a team that posted a 6-7 record. The Trojans always bring it against tough opponents, but the “easy” games are what should make Trojan fans hold off on purchasing a flight to Miami just yet.

First, USC has to travel to Utah in October. While the Utes weren’t exactly formidable in their 2012 Pac-12 debut, they were just a field goal away from upsetting USC in the Coliseum. Granted, USC hadn’t yet found its identity at that point in the season last year, but it was a scare nonetheless. This time around the Trojans will travel to Rice-Eccles Stadium on a Thursday night, a game that just reeks of a possible upset. The Utes will return nine offensive starters including their top four receivers, top two running backs, and a healthy QB in Jordan Wynn. We didn’t really get to see what Wynn could do last season as he was plagued by shoulder injuries, but if said surgically-repaired shoulder holds up this year, he could be a serious threat.

Then the following week, USC has to go Husky Stadium to take on Steve Sarkisian and his boys. Washington will probably garner a Top 25 ranking early in the year, but it has to face LSU, Stanford, Oregon, and USC within a five-week stretch. The Huskies could possibly face the Trojans after dropping all three of these games, which is what makes this particularly trap-like for USC. Last year, ‘SC gave Washington the business in a 40-17 romp at the Coliseum, in another clash between Kiffin and Sark. The Trojans were looking for vengeance after losing to Washington by a field goal two seasons in a row, and they definitely got it. Expect Washington to do the same this year, especially after a possible losing streak.

What could hurt them though is that they no longer have their top running back, Chris Polk, who ran for 1535 yards last season. They also lose both of their top receivers but they are returning six offensive starters, including a healthy Keith Price. On defense, they return five of their six top tacklers and have added the highest-rated safety recruit in the country, Shaq Thompson. If USC is not careful, the Huskies could be the reason ‘SC’s first season post-bowl ban ends in Pasadena and not Miami.

Lastly, USC travels to Arizona to face the Wildcats. On paper, this is a no-brainer win for USC; the Wildcats went 4-8 and fired their coach, Mike Stoops. However they replaced him with offensive guru Rich Rodriguez who will likely turn this Arizona team around. A signature win against mighty ‘SC is exactly what Rodriguez needs to bolster his team, and if USC goes into this as lax as it did against ASU last year, the Trojans could be in big trouble.

USC will likely enter all of these games as the favorite, and if it lives by the “one week at a time, no games off” mantra, Kiffin and this team will get to taste bowl game glory after being left hungry for two years.

However if history repeats itself, one of these games will be the Trojan Horse that catches USC off guard and causes the walls of Troy—and their national title hopes—to come crashing down.

Tags: Lane Kiffin Matt Barkley Norm Chow Rich Rodriguez Steve Sarkisian USC Trojans

  • http://www.facebook.com/carlos.sandoval.1276 Carlos Sandoval

    Well, ASU may have posted a 6-7 record, but at the time, when they beat you guys, the team was top-25 ranked. It wasn’t exactly a trap game. It just so happened that ASU is miles better at home than they are on the road. (And the UCLA loss began their end-of-season tail-spin anyway.)

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      USC should have beaten ASU, as they squandered a ton of chances in the red zone and we were going to take the lead in the third quarter before turning it over. You’re right, it wasn’t a trap game, but to think that UCLA sunk ASU is pretty ignorant. ASU was being typical ASU and falling off in the second half of the season. They would have lost to anyone, including UCLA, so don’t think you killed their season.

  • Thekatman

    Mark Sanchez was the QB when USC lost to Oregon State in 2008. Barkley didn’t start at USC until 2009.

    IMHO, every game is considered a trap game, only because the kids will be exposed to so much hype, preseason, that they will have to be especially prepared to play each and every game as if it were the last game of a winning season. Yes, CLK is pushing the “prep not hype” mantra, but the players are 18-22 y/o, so they’ll have to be especially diligent in their prep and focus.
    Remember, that every team that plans for and plays against USC, plays that game as if it were their bowl game, and that will hold true especially this season since the press is touring USC to go all they way… all things being equal.

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      Thanks, Greg, we fixed our little brain fart. And, I think you’re pretty right, the target is on SC this year and that’s something this group hasn’t had to deal with before. Although it’s Syracuse, the second game of the year at the Meadowlands is going to give the Trojans plenty of pressure as an east coast , and again, something these kids have never had to deal with.

  • Smitty

    I’m just curious who told you that Marcus Mariota would be Oregon’s QB? I’m not saying it won’t happen, but I don’t think it’s decided yet. Oregon has a pretty good RS sophomore named Bryan Bennett, who played well in relief of Thomas last season.

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      Just a projection, that’s all.

  • Joe

    Norm chow isn’t the Utah coach anymore, he’s with hawai

  • zizou541

    Wow a dominating win over the Oregon Ducks? A three point win is dominating? Yes you may have had a big lead entering the final quarter, but the game is four quarters for a reason. I would like to know what you call what Oregon did to USC in 2009 and 2010? You also lost to Oregon in 2007 a team that was clearly better than you not an inferior opponent. In 2006 you lost to Oregon State as well. It is great to see this revisionist history, your site is a joke. Good to know that you have insight on who the Oregon QB be, oh wait you don’t. Pathetic attempt at journalism or blogging or whatever it is you are trying to do here.

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      The 2011 USC-Oregon was a domination for three quarters, not four. Yes, you’re right. However, the point of the article was about trap games, and Oregon can’t be a trap game due to their prowess. Therefore, other than projecting a quarterback and the ‘domination’ line, exactly where did we compromise our ‘journalism or blogging or whatever’? If you’d like to write for us to show us how to do it, you’re more than welcome to sign up. However, we do ask for proper grammar.

      • zizou541

        I apologized for that in the above post, but why would I need more than two reasons?

      • zizou541

        I apologized for that remark, it was classless. When did I not use proper grammar?

    • Trenise

      1. USC dominated for 3 quarters, and yes the fourth quarter was sub par, but winning in Autzen as the underdogs is worth noting.
      2. Do you know what a “trap game” is? Obviously losing to Oregon in 2009 and 2010 isn’t a trap as they were, you know, the favorites. This is not about USC > Ducks or vice verse, its about USC dropping games to teams they should not.
      3. In the intro i was siting one bad loss per season. Considering what was at stake, the UCLA lost was more significant in ’06. But if it makes you feel better, OSU was a trap too. There, I hope you can sleep at night knowing you got that out there.
      4. I read on an Oregon Ducks site that it would be Mariota. If its not, then my apologies. Either way it’s not Darron Thomas.
      5. If the only thing that you got from this post was the USC didn’t dominate Oregon, then a. you entirely missed the point about trap games and b. my point still stands that USC brings it against legit competition but has falted against lesser teams.

      And as far as how this was a “pathetic attempt” at journalism, what are your problems with it other than dissing Oregon.

      Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

      :)

      • zizou541

        To your 2nd point, I wasn’t implying that the article thought Oregon was a trap game in ’09 ’10. I was simply asking the author what they would define those wins as considering the article called a 3 point win dominating. By your definition in 2006 OSU dominated USC, would you agree with that?
        4.This site(I am referring to the site that said M.M. is going to be the starter) has no inside info. I wouldn’t trust any site claiming to know the starter considering Chip plays his cards close to his vest and if they say they know they are just guessing. Also Darron was a first time starter in 2010 and he worked out pretty well for Oregon.
        5. No that is not all I got from your article, I did actually read it.
        “Pathetic attempt” was quite harsh, rude and uncalled-for so you have my apologies there. One of the problems I had was that you didn’t give any credit to the teams that beat SC. Yes they were not as talented, but they came to play(on that particular day) and SC didn’t.

        • zizou541

          P.S. I hope I didn’t make you wait too long.

        • Trenise

          It wasn’t supposed to be about giving credit to the other teams, it was about USC dropping the ball. By all means all the teams that bested USC did so because on any given weekend, any team can lose.

          It was more to say that, when you are a team like USC or Oregon of recent, there are expectations of you. And losing to subpar teams, regardless of how well they played that day, is well below that expectation. And if USC wants to have all the glory laid out for them, then they will absolutely have to avoid slipping up in trap games.

          And in regards to Oregons QB situation, i have no delusions that Oregon will “suck” without Thomas. If we have learned anything from Oregon since the days of Dennis Dixon it is that Oregons players are all interchangeable, and can get the job done where their time is called on. Especially the QBs.

          • zizou541

            Still haven’t answered the question of what definition you would give the Oregon victories in ’09 and ’10. You also have not given a yes or no response to the question of domination regarding the game between SC and OSU in 2006. I’ll wait.

  • ally

    Pretty inaccurate of you to state a “dominating win against the ducks”… Especially since Oregon shut out USC for the final quarter in a half. I’d say that was a rather close game. Be careful, Oregon isn’t going to sleep on you Trojans this year…

    Look forward to 2 great games against USC.

    WTD

    • http://fansided.com/ Michael Castillo

      Should be two great games, without question. How about we hope for a split and a rematch in the title game, eh?

    • Trenise

      Ok sure, the fourth quarter was all kinds of abismal. But three solid ones in Autzen…

      And yes. the USC/Oregon series this year and the probable rematch in the Conf. title game will be one for the ages!

    • George W

      Inaccurate – Really…. it WAS dominating. It was a world class ass whooping for the first three quarters. The 4th was a comeback due to a mental lapse and a couple of mistakes by the Trojans at crucial times… otherwise, it would have been a blowout!

      I respect the Ducks, in fact, I fear the Ducks… believe me, they’re no joke! The Ducks are for real!

      Pac 12 rules!!

      Fight On!!

      • zizou541

        Would you say that Oregon State dominated SC in the 2006 match up?

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  • Trenise

    Just want everyone on here to know that when I said Marcus Mariota would be the starting QB, i was RIGHT.