USC Football: Hurry-Up Offense Is Cody Kessler’s Secret Weapon


Riddle me this: What do the 2014 USC vs. Fresno St. game and the 2014 USC vs. Notre Dame game have in common?

Answer: USC ran its pro-style version of the no-huddle hurry-up offense and Cody Kessler had his best two games of the season.

RELATED: USC’s Best Players Vs. Every Pac-12 School

In the Fresno St game he was 25-of-37 with 394 yards, 4 touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. In the Notre Dame game he was 32-of-40 with 372 yards and six touchdowns — a record against any Irish defense.

The USC offense looked the best it had all season during those games, showcasing multiple players and spreading the ball around. The run game was also improved due to the up-tempo offense.

Sadly, we know that the up-tempo offense was basically a commodity last year, going but hardly ever coming.

Due to lack of depth, Steve Sarkisian opted to use the offense at a normal pace, but still based the offense in a pistol or shotgun formation. While the offense still had good numbers — USC was 30th in total offense, up from 43rd in 2013 — it never seemed to be intimidating. Keep in mind that Washington State’s offense was ranked 14th, with a roster of players among whom only a handful would land a USC offer.

In the Pac-12 where every offense is built to kill, USC needs to have a killer mentality as well. It seemed at times last year when the offense was doing well, Sark would take his foot off the gas. The result? USC was holding on for dear life in what seemed like every game of importance, and several times lost the game at the very end.

The key to the offense will be Cody Kessler, whose game is ideally suited to the up-tempo, no huddle offense for the following reasons:

1. Arm strength. As we saw last year, Kessler likes to throw the ball between 10-15 yard of where he is standing and rarely further. Why? He does not have a very strong arm and his balls lack zip. When he throws further than that his balls start to wobble. This is not to say that Kessler cannot make throws downfield; he can on occasion. But that is not his strength. In the up-tempo offense this is not a real problem because most of the passes are not deep downfield.

2. Decision making. Say what you want about Kessler, the guy does not make many mistakes with the football, which is an elite trait. The up-tempo offense requires quarterbacks to make great decisions quickly, and no one in college football makes better decisions than Kessler.

3. Less pressure on late in games. When USC ran the up-tempo offense, it seemingly scored at will. When it took the foot off the gas, games got out of hand and the offense failed to find rhythm late in games when it might potentially need a comeback.

Kessler has never won a game coming from behind, and it would be best for all involved if he does not have to try. USC has the weapons and Kessler has the skills to have an offense where USC can score tons of points and not have worry about giving up a lead if they go up-tempo the entire game, every game

USC has high expectations this season and the talent to realize them. People often make the point that the defense needs to step up more; but the same is true of the offense.

The offense will be a force if it simply does what it is designed to do; go at a fast pace, sub often, and go for the kill at the end.

Will it happen? We will see come Sept. 5 and beyond.

More from Reign of Troy