Admittedly, I am not a tactical genius when it comes to X’s and O’s and developing game plans to expose the opposing team. There is a reason Lane Kiffin makes over 4 million a year to coach USC and his father Monte is getting about 1 million to oversee the defense with Ed Orgeron while I study accounting. Nevertheless, it appears that week 5 provided insight into how the Trojans can devise a scheme to pull of the upset in Palo Alto.
Game Plan: Run the ball extensively and bleed the clock.
-In Eugene, the Ducks ran over and through the Stanford defense, amassing 388 yards and averaging 7.3 yards per carry. LaMichael James himself carried the ball for 257 yards while running through some large holes. Stanford’s defense is young and didn’t respond well to the first good offense it faced. They were blown off of the ball and the Ducks used that to their advantage.
-In Los Angeles, Allen Bradford (yes, the same Allen Bradford that Lane Kiffin hasn’t yet named as the starter for this week) turned in a beastly performance with 223 yards in a physical running game. The offensive line opened up gaping holes and Bradford took advantage. The passing game wasn’t anything special, but USC was able to impose their will on the ground. While the offense succeeded, the defense failed to fulfill its duties. Jake Locker carved up the secondary by rolling out and using play fakes. He willed his way to conversions in crucial situations and exposed the weaknesses of USC.
Given these circumstances, USC would be best suited by running the ball and physically pounding the Cardinal while using up as much clock as possible. If the Oregon offensive line was able to push Stanford’s front seven off of the ball, USC’s line should be able to do the same. They were touted as one of the best lines in the country coming into 2010 and were very physical against Washington.
The benefits of running the ball are two-fold. By running predominantly, USC will set up play action passes in certain situations that will stretch the field and catch the Cardinal by surprise. Matt Barkley will be able to find Ronald Johnson deep for a big play or two and create momentum, something that was lacking last week. Furthermore, the Cardinal have some injuries in the secondary this week that will make it even easier to pass on them. Secondly, running the ball keeps the clock in motion and helps control time of possession. The more the USC offense is on the field, the less the USC defense is out there, and the explosive Cardinal offense can’t score if they don’t have the ball. Granted, Andrew Luck has thrown 4 interceptions in the last two games. However, that isn’t something you can count on. USC’s secondary has underperformed so far and Luck is the kind of quarterback who can take advantage. After throwing two interceptions against Nebraska, Jake Locker had his way against USC.
As Lane Kiffin told his players after Saturday’s loss, there is still plenty of season left. If they pull of a win in Palo Alto, USC will likely jump back into the top 25 and return to the conversation of Pac-10 title contenders. The campaign is not a lost cause. Yes, these Trojans don’t have the depth or swagger of the Pete Carroll glory days, but they still have immense talent, albeit inexperienced, on both sides of the ball. With smart game planning, good execution, and the right mentality, USC can beat Stanford and return to Los Angeles with a different attitude than the negative one hanging over the program at the moment.