USC Football: How to Improve Over the Bye Week


Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. (7) celebrates scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After a week in which many were calling for Justin Wilcox’s and Steve Sarkisian’s job, the USC football team was able to bounce back from a loss to Stanford with a 42-14 victory against ASU in Tempe.

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However, the Trojans have little time to celebrate and take their bows; they have a very tough schedule ahead of them.

They face a talented Washington team in 12 days at home, then follow it up with a trip to South Bend to take on a Notre Dame team that may well be in the top three in the nation if they earn a victory against Clemson on Saturday.

That game will be followed by a home game against the Utah Utes, who defeated USC last year on what was essentially the last play of the game and throttled Oregon last week with a 62-20 victory in Autzen Stadium.

Bottom line, the Trojans better come prepared if they want to leave the Coliseum after the Utah game at 6-1 rather than 3-4.

While the Arizona State game was an impressive win for the Trojans, it should be kept in mind that the Sun Devils made so many mistakes which allowed USC to look so good. The Trojans themselves also made mistakes, but luckily they were not as fatal those of ASU mistakes. These things must be fixed before the kickoff against Washington or the men of Troy may be in for a few heartbreaks.

There are many areas where the Trojans can improve, but in these 12 days lets narrow it down to four.

First, penalties.

USC could have scored over 50 points against the Sun Devils, but several times drives came to a halt because of reckless penalties. Penalties can be the difference in a game if it is close, and the Trojans may have a few nail biters in the coming weeks. To give themselves the best chance, they must be disciplined and calm.

Second, the Trojans still need to establish an identity.

Through four games, we have yet to find out of the Trojans are a run-first team or a pass-first team.

It does not matter which way the team goes; they have the athletes to be great either way. But they need to make a decision and go from there. Also, if the team desires to run-first, they will need to be more physical at the point of attack and use Cody Kessler on designed runs to keep teams honest.

Third, open-field tackling.

While this was much better than the Stanford game, USC needs to tackle better in space and bring the man down on the first try. Mike Bercovici was not able to find D.J. Foster in space much, but when he did it showed the weakness of the Trojans’ open field tackling abilities. This must be shored up in the coming weeks.

And finally, find a way to get Adoree’ Jackson more involved in the offense.

He may not wear the No. 5, but Jackson is as close to Reggie Bush-level as any player has come in quite some time. On 3 catches, he managed to get 131 yards and a touchdown. Given his play-making abilities, getting him involved will also get defenses to account for him, opening up more holes for JuJu Smith-Schuster and others.

With a guy like Jackson factored into the the offense, the sky is the limit for the Trojans on that side of the ball.

There is no time to celebrate. The Trojans must focus on the prize of getting to the Pac-12 Championship game, which will not be handed to them.

If what they showed on Saturday night was not just an aberration, if should be a delightful season.

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