1. Run the ball efficiently and effectively
With a physical defensive line, the Cardinal are a big challenge up front.
The Cardinal are giving up an average of 99.22 rushing yards per game. In their 26-20 victory over Oregon, the Cardinal held the vaunted Ducks running attack to 62 yards.
In their last two victories over Oregon State and Cal, USC has averaged 249 rushing yards. In Tre Madden’s absence, Javorius Allen has become a key contributor.
The Trojans don’t necessarily need to rush for another 250 yards. In fact, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to.
However, they need to be able to run the ball in key moments and make the Cardinal respect their ability to pick up yards on the ground.
2. Get big plays
The Trojans have the skill players to make that can make life difficult for the Cardinal secondary out in space.
Nelson Agholor has quickly replaced Marqise Lee as the primary big-play threat.
Lee has shown the ability to come up big under the brightest lights in seasons past, and he could be primed for another.
A dink and dunk approach may work on certain drives, but the Cardinal’s veteran defense would presumably rise up and hold the Trojans to a field goal attempt more times than not.
Field goals won’t win the game for the Trojans.
3. Avoid negative plays
As important as the explosive plays are, so too is the importance of avoiding plays that result in a loss of yards.
If the Trojans continuously rush the ball for a loss of yards and get behind the sticks, the Cardinal defensive line will be able to pin their ears back and get after Cody Kessler.
While it is clearly not the goal, even gaining just one yard on a running play would be much better than losing one or two yards.
4. Spread the wealth
Despite the injury bug biting hard, USC still has a plethora of talented skill players.
Since taking over, offensive coordinator Clay Helton has done an admirable job of utilizing the array of weapons that are at his disposal.
The Cardinal will be well prepared and aware of the big-name threats. Perhaps a tight end goes unnoticed on seam route, or a fullback slips out of the backfield on a wheel route.
5. Limit mistakes
The Trojans have cleaned up the penalty issues that have plagued them throughout the season. The offensive line was responsible for only one flag in the victory over the Bears.
Like the penalties, turnovers have been a back-and-forth battle. The Trojans have turned the ball over in two of their last four games.
One of those was an interception, which was returned for a touchdown.
Against a stingy defense such as the one the Cardinal have, turning the ball over will place additional pressure on the offense.