Oct 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) throws a pass against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

USC Football: Don’t Put Too Much Stock Into The Offensive Performance

50 points scored.  458 total yards on only 48 offensive plays.  340 passing yards.  A 3rd quarter score.  Eight different receivers catching at least one pass.  Six offensive team and/or conference records either set or tied.

On the surface the Trojans had it all clicking against the Colorado Buffaloes in the Coliseum on Saturday, but there are a few other numbers that need to be taken into consideration before proclaiming that the Trojans and their offense have turned a corner.

Those numbers are – 117 out of 120 – as in the Buffs’ national rank in passing defense coming into the game.  That 117 out of 120 is also the Buffs’ national rank in scoring defense, giving up 41.3 points per game.  Then there is the 113 out of 120, this is the Buffs’ national rank in total defense.

To put it frankly, the Buffs aren’t a very good team and didn’t present much of a challenge for the Trojans.  The Trojans were able to do many of the same things they have been doing all year and faced little resistance.

Matt Barkley completed 19 of his 20 pass attempts on Saturday but the same dynamics that have been bogging down the offense this season were prevalent against the Buffs.  The Buffs were just helpless to stop the Trojans.

Barkley targeted Robert Woods and Marqise Lee on 14 of his drop backs.  That is a targeting rate of 70%, which has been part of the issue with the offense this season – predictability and an inability to force a defense defend the entire field.

One effective wrinkle that appeared on Saturday was putting Lee into the slot to attack the seam.  This is an effective way to get Lee the ball while attacking the middle of the field but this is still forcing the ball into either Woods or Lee.

Why not run formations with Xavier Grimble, Woods, and Lee on the same side of the field?  This would put extreme pressure on the defense.  Lee and Woods would get so much attention, Grimble who is a match-up problem waiting to happen, would have his way.  Once teams start bitting up on Grimble, Barkley would still have Woods on an intermediate route and Lee on a deep route.

There is also the possibility of bringing the receiver from the opposite side of the formation on a drag route after all the traffic has cleared.  Additionally, that receiver is also certain to get man coverage on his side of the formation with all the attention being paid to what is going on opposite of him.

I understand the temptation to get the ball to such dynamic playmakers such as Woods and Lee.  They are game breakers.  Their ability makes them effective even when they aren’t getting the ball.  That makes the offense more dangerous because they are opening up opportunities for other players in the offense.  It would be foolish not to take advantage of that.

Maybe Lane Kiffin is waiting until he gets into the more difficult part of the schedule to do that.  The Trojans will need that diversity in their offense to win against a few of these upcoming opponents.

Tags: Football Lane Kiffin Marqise Lee Matt Barkley Robert Woods USC Trojans Xavier Grimble

  • Theo

    First, it’s not forcing anything into their hands if they are wide open. Second, leaving st least a known dynamic threat on the opposite side of the field greatly reduces the risk of an outside blitz, such as a corner blitz. It’s easy to come up with percentages, but that must be coupled with the ability to understand and diagnose the game as well. There was absolutely no reason to be a dick and overload, and completely break down a hapless Colorado defense. They kept it simple, just as kiffin said, and still set records. That’s good enough for me.

    • http://twitter.com/biggil91 Gillie

      It wasn’t so much a commentary on what was done in the Colorado game. They offensive did what they were supposed to do against a hapless Colorado defense. It was more of a commentary on the struggles that the offense has gone through this year and the cause for that.
      The offense hasn’t done things formationally this year to stress a defense. When over 72% of your pass attempts for the season have gone to two players, they haven’t focused on getting the ball to other weapons to give the defense something to think about. This is why the offense has been stagnant. It is one thing to do it against Colorado, but something different to do it against ASU, Oregon, and Notre Dame.
      This has also made Woods and Lee less effective overall all as teams have sat a safety over the top of them, limiting their yards per reception by 3 yards per catch. Until the Colorado game, Woods has been extremely silent.
      The focus of the offense has been to get the ball solely to Woods and Lee and to do so along the sideline. The middle of the field has been wide open.
      As far as moving them both to the same side of the field, if you blitz the corner from the single wide receiver side, you either leave that receiver wide open because the focus of both safeties will be to the flooded side. If you keep a safety to that side and blitz the corner, you create a match up problem because now you have a safety on a speedy receiver.
      The blitzing CB can be picked up by the back in the backfield or be accounted for by QB in his hot read.