USC Football: Trojans Can’t Afford Another Struggle with Hawaii


Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Along USC’s road to their first post-season berth since 2010, the Trojans have to win, and they have to do so with style. Their first challenge comes against Hawaii this coming Saturday, and for all intents and purposes USC has this one in the bag. Vegas has the Trojans as the 40-point favorite and even with the possibility that certain starters (like Lamar Dawson) might not be active, this spread is still standing. One could consider it a sign of the Apocalypse if the Trojans don’t win their season opener, but just winning the game isn’t all they have to do: they have to win big.

Based on recent history, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that this will be the case.

The Trojans traveled to Hawaii for their 2010 season opener, for what was also supposed to be a blowout for SC. Instead, they only won 49-36, which, by then-new Head Coach Lane Kiffin’s standards, was not good enough. To be fair, some of Hawai’i’s touchdowns came late after the first and second team defense had left the game, and some history was still made along the way: Matt Barkley passed for 257 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes, and wide receiver Ronald Johnson also matched a USC record when he found the endzone three times. But the Trojans didn’t deliver a signature beat down of a lesser opponent as they are historically known to do, so it left the coaches–and definitely the fans–worried about the games to come.

After the game, Kiffin spoke about his disappointment in the Trojans’ performance. “We didn’t do it in the style that we wanted. We want to be tough, we want to be disciplined,” he said. “I thought we were tough today. I thought that we played physical in parts of the game, but we weren’t disciplined.”

Just how undisciplined were they? USC racked up 11 penalties for 100 yards. This time around, the Trojans cannot afford to play that carelessly.

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors are no match for the Trojans, and the score at the end of the game needs to reflect that if USC is going to make a case for itself as the team to beat this year. Sure, plenty of people have said it, but it is their actions on the field that will keep this cardinal and gold squad fresh on the minds of voters throughout the year. USC needs to come out guns blazing, with Barkley and the offense having a field day with Hawai’i. Obviously running up the scoreboard would be distasteful, but covering that 40-point spread would definitely go a long way, especially with so many major programs playing weak opponents in the first week.

By being in the Pac-12, USC has to deal with criticism for not playing as tough of competition as teams do in the SEC or the Big 12. To silence those critics, the Trojans have to win this game in such a fashion that says, “We are SC, and we’re back”. With the talent that they have, anything less than a stylish win will once again be seen as a disappointment, and will have implications for what this team is capable of when the competition actually heats up.