USC vs. Stanford 2018 reaction: Lots of questions, not many answers

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images /

The 2018 USC vs. Stanford game highlighted the same problems the Trojans have needed to fix for two seasons, calling Clay Helton into question.

USC vs. Stanford. Studs and Duds

The Stanford game is not the end-all of any season. Last year, the Trojans beat Stanford handily but never matched that standard of play for the rest of the season. So, just as that game was a mirage, this game could be as well.

Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. The same things that have plagued head coach Clay Helton’s teams in the past two seasons also plagued them in this game: Poor offensive line play, poor play calling, lack of urgency, allowing teams to convert on long third downs, etc. There was one bright spot; for the most part USC’s special teams played well, which certainly was not the case last season.

However, for the second time in Helton’s tenure, USC was held without a touchdown (the other was against Alabama in 2016). No matter whom USC is playing on a given day, there is no excuse for USC to not put up at least 14 points from scrimmage every game. This is a team that is composed of nothing but Top 10 recruiting classes; getting 14 points should be easy.

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There is no good way to spin this 17-3 loss. USC was unprepared and out-coached. Having a freshman quarterback is no excuse when you return two of your three best receivers, have a stable of effective running backs (who did play well for the most part) and return nearly all the starters on your offensive line. If that is the case, you should be prepared. USC was not, and the fault lies with the USC coaching staff.

After this game, many fans are again raising the question: Is Clay Helton the man to lead USC to the promised land? Or was he only competent when Sam Darnold was around? It is too early to answer these questions, but Helton will have to answer them eventually or he will not be around. Several of USC’s worst losses have occurred with him at the helm. Eventually he will be called to the carpet.

As USC prepares for a showdown in Austin, the same things that needed to be fixed last week apply to this week.

For starters, the Trojans will have to develop an identity and stop simply calling plays.

Second, USC’s offensive line will have to give JT Daniels time, and the snapping needs work as well.

Third, practice should be in full-pads until USC’s offensive line plays to their potential.

Fourth and finally, USC must get better in the red zone. Even if the other things are fixed, USC won’t win leaving so many points on the board.

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The next few weeks will tell us a lot about where this team is headed. They can turn this around and still push for the Pac-12 Championship and the College Football Playoff, or they can tank and Lynn Swann will be on the search for the right head coach. The decision rests entirely with the team and the coaching staff. How will they respond? We will find out in Austin.