Ed Orgeron has some Pete Carroll in him.
It’s in the way he sets the tone at practice. It’s in the way he emphasizes energy on the sideline. It’s in his passion for the game, his players, and the Trojan family as a whole.
On Saturday night against the #4 Stanford Cardinal, we’re going to find out if Orgeron has another side of Carroll in him — the ability to win the big one.
After all, that defined the Pete Carroll era at USC. Yes, the dancing on the sidelines and the competition and the swagger were all mainstays, but those were pieces of the bigger puzzle.
Carroll’s teams didn’t just have fun. They took on all comers and they beat them too. Under Carroll, USC was 32-8 against ranked opponents.
Orgeron has made a point of styling himself after the Carroll. From day one, that message has been clear.
“We started laughing and joking and dancing in the room like we did with Coach Carroll,” Orgeron told Dan Patrick Thursday morning. ”I wanted the guys to express themselves on the field, celebrate with the teammates, have fun. We’re doing it again and they’re enjoying it.”
The resurrection of Troy is in full swing this second half of the season. But this week’s game at the Coliseum is about more than just this season. It’s also about the future. A win would prove that Orgeron is a legitimate choice to be the Trojans’ official head coach. A win could potentially change the landscape of college football’s coaching carousel. A win could bolster USC’s uncertain recruiting status.
A win, however, is a what if at this point in time and Orgeron has supplied mixed results in big games this season. After all, Notre Dame was a big game and Orgeron’s Trojans, for lack of a better word, choked the game away. Neither team seemed to want that game when it was there for the taking.
Oregon State, on the other hand, was a textbook victory. On the road in a hostile environment, USC grabbed the Beavers by the teeth and went for it. No fear, no doubt, they imposed their will.
They’ll need to do that against the Cardinal, even though it will be like trying to impose their will on a brick wall at first.
Still, the task isn’t impossible. Stanford may be a top five team, but they’ve had their share of questions. The same Utah team that USC handled in a fairly straight forward manner, handed the Cardinal their only loss on the season. That Ute team also featured the only defensive line Stanford has faced which is comparable to the Trojans.
Stanford also leaves plenty to be desired on offense. Kevin Hogan has not progressed the way you might have expected given his surprise emergence last season. In fact, hit passer rating is only slightly better than Cody Kessler’s on the season, even though Kessler was handcuffed by Lane Kiffin for most of the early season.
Speaking of Kessler, the Trojan quarterback hasn’t lit up the field but his stats to date reveal that he is far better than people give him credit for. Kessler’s passer rating against conference opponents is second only to Marcus Mariota. Against teams with a winning record, Kessler also comes in at second in the Pac-12. Hogan meanwhile, sits sixth.
That’s not to say that this game is set up to be a quarterback battle, but the last time the Trojans and Cardinal faced off at the Coliseum, Andrew Luck was the difference maker. More recently, last year in Palo Alto, Josh Nunes threw the ball 32 times and led the game winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Weeks ago, after USC notched their first win with Orgeron at the helm, Kessler talked about going to war for his new head coach. That’s something else that Orgeron has of Pete Carroll. The ability to inspire his players.
The Trojans can ride that inspiration to victory. Win Saturday and, as Carroll would say, win forever.