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.