We have seen the future of the USC Trojans, and it is not encouraging.
The Trojans lost to Utah, as they are wont to do, on Saturday night. Utah's 34-32 victory over the Trojans in the Coliseum was its fourth straight win in the series and the third straight since Lincoln Riley assumed control of Troy. A Utah team that had struggled offensively all season long suddenly found its offense Saturday night.
The Utes hadn't rushed for more than 231 yards in a game all season, and that was against Weber State. Saturday, they rushed for 247. Of course, considering the team has been without its starting QB, Cam Rising, all season long, running the ball had been its strength. That's why it hadn't thrown for more than 193 yards in a game (again, Weber State) before throwing for 235 against the Trojans. Starting strong safety, Sione Vaki became an offensive powerhouse against the Trojans defense, catching five passes for 149 yards (no other Ute had more than 70 yards receiving in any game before Saturday night) and rushed for 68 yards, too. Pig farmer Bryson Barnes outplayed Heisman winner Caleb Williams throw for throw, finishing with 235 yards passing and three touchdowns while rushing for 57 and another score.
Kyle Whittingham with an all-time quote: "They've got a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, so they're gonna make some things, and that's just the way it is. But we've got ourselves a pig farmer at quarterback, so we're proud of that guy, too."— Josh Furlong (@JFurKSL) October 22, 2023
It was the kind of game that left me confident Utah would be just fine and continue being Utah when it leaves for the Big 12 next year. But USC? USC's in a world of trouble, and I'm not sure anybody around the program realizes it yet.
There's been a sense that when the four Pac-12 schools leaving for the Big Ten enter the conference, they will shake things up and bring more firepower to a league that lacks some. It's a theory gaining support from more people as the Big Ten's West Division continues having the worst season of its existence.
Nobody should be surprised that the Trojans lost to the Utes on Saturday, because this is what has happened to this team under Lincoln Riley. The same thing happened when the Trojans went to South Bend. Any time USC faces a team capable of punching it in the mouth, it wilts. There are six defenses in the Pac-12 allowing fewer than 350 yards per game, and the Trojans have struggled with the three they've played, losing to Utah and struggling to get by Arizona (43-41) and Arizona State (USC won 42-28, but it was a one-score game most of the second half). Notre Dame, one of the best defenses in the country, dominated USC.
There's plenty of attention paid to USC's defense, but we don't pay nearly as much attention to USC's offensive line and how it struggles against physical front sevens as much as the defense struggles to stop anybody.
The Big Ten is nothing but the kind of teams Lincoln Riley's USC struggles to beat. It's a conference full of Utahs and Notre Dames that will be more than happy to drag the Trojans into the mud and force them to win wrestling matches they've shown no ability to win under Riley.
The Trojans will need to change who they are to fit into the Big Ten, not the other way around, and, to this point, Lincoln Riley has shown no such desire to change anything. If you bring up the defense, he'll tell you there's no problem with it or that it's close. They'll then go out and allowed 35 points or more to their next opponent and continue on as if nothing is wrong because they scored 42.
USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch spent a season as Ohio State's co-defensive coordinator in 2018. The Buckeyes allowed 403.4 yards and 25.5 points per game that season. Outside the 25.8 points allowed per game during the 2002 COVID season, those are the worst defensive outputs by the Buckeyes in either category for at least the last decade and likely longer.
If that feels like a cheap shot at Grinch, I'm sorry, but if his defense at Ohio State -- one of two programs that have dominated the Big Ten throughout history -- couldn't succeed in the league, what's his defense going to do with a roster that allowed 5.3 yards per play against Stanford?
We have seen the future of USC, and it is 7-5.
Common Sense Plea of the Week
There were a lot of controversial calls in college football this weekend, much like there are controversial calls every weekend. Whether , hazy , questionable targeting calls, or pass interference flags being picked up, there are coaches and fans left angry with how their games were officiated every weekend.
And I don't blame them. Hell, I'm often right there with them. Where I differ from many, though, is I don't blame the officials, either. They have a hard job, and every year, they're put in an even more impossible situation.
The sport is hard enough to officiate because we're asking officials to watch for a thousand different things as 22 young men between 185 and 350 pounds run around at the speed of light all around them. Of course they'll miss things and continue to miss more as we change the rules every season.
No solution fixes everything, but there's a solution that could improve it. How about instead of creating more rules, we create fewer? What if we make the game easier to officiate? What if, instead of going back to review everything automatically, we let the calls made on the field stand and allow coaches the chance to challenge one or two calls per game?
What if we stop ejecting players for targeting when they clearly weren't trying to hurt anybody and just got caught in an impossible situation playing a violent game?
Every year, we put in new rules to enhance player safety and help officials "get it right," yet players still get hurt every year, and officials still get it wrong.
We're putting far too much on their plate. If we lighten their load and accept that, no matter how hard we try or pure our intentions, calls will be missed the same way throws and tackles are, we'll all enjoy this sport a lot more.
Deja Vu of the Week
While Ohio State's 20-12 win over Penn State Saturday looked a lot different than most of the previous meetings between the two, there was certainly a familiar sense of dread amongst Penn State fans watching the game.
Once again the Nittany Lions got off to a great start to the season, only to lose to Ohio State. However, while plenty of people will clown Penn State coach James Franklin for another loss to a top-10 team, and for his comments after the game about watching two national championship caliber teams and defenses, it doesn't change the fact he's right.
I grew up watching Big Ten football. Believe me when I tell you I've seen a lot of bad offensive football, both in the Big Ten, and around the country. I've also seen defenses dominate games from start to finish, and that was what happened between Ohio State and Penn State.
There are times when bad offensive execution looks like good defense, and bad defense makes something look like good offense. Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, we saw two defenses overwhelm two offenses and make life miserable for everybody involved. That's not to say there wasn't poor offensive execution on either side, but the defenses have far more to do with it than they do in most other games.
I don't think Penn State will beat Michigan (I don't think Ohio State will, either), but this latest loss doesn't change my opinion of the Nittany Lions overall. They're still one of the 10 best teams in the country. All that happened on Saturday was they lost to another one of the 10 best teams in the country.
Maserati Marv implies the existence of a Honda McCord— Sickos Committee (@SickosCommittee) October 21, 2023
Big Man Touchdown of the Week
There's throwing a touchdown to an offensive lineman, and then there's throwing a touchdown to an offensive lineman when your team is down three in the final minute of the game. I suppose there's some relief in knowing that, if it hadn't worked, you could still kick the field goal to tie the game, but I admire Luke Fickell and Wisconsin's courage to do something nobody saw coming in a spot like this.
Look at the soft hands of Nolan Rucci!
Random Factoid of the Week
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix made the 54th start of his college career in Oregon's 38-24 win over Washington State, marking the most ever starts by a college QB. That's a remarkable stat, but there's an angle to it I found particularly amusing.
Bo Nix's first start came as a member of the Auburn Tigers against the Oregon Ducks to start the 2019 season. Oregon's QB that day was Justin Herbert. On Sunday, Herbert made the 55th start of his NFL career.
While I'll never look back on the 2020 COVID season as a good time for anybody, at least it led to quirky factoids like this, so some good came out of it.
Reminder to Keep Your Head on a Swivel of the Week
Wake up, No. 8.
Interception of the Week
Just your typical, one-armed, no-look, pin the ball against your body as you have your other arm draped around the back of the receiver interception from Boston College's Amari Jackson. It's fitting that there's no great camera angle of Jackson's interception. We get just as good a view of it as he did.
The Eagles, who began the season 1-3, beat Georgia Tech 38-23 and have now won three straight. With games left against UConn, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Pitt, a bowl game suddenly looks within reach.
Arkansas Fan of the Week
The thumb has it: Arkansas fired offensive coordinator Dan Enos following a lifeless 7-3 home loss to Mississippi State. Honestly, I'm a little surprised Enos was the lone casualty. With the Hogs heading into their bye week at 2-6 overall and 0-5 in the SEC, I thought there was a very good chance Sam Pittman would be the one getting his walking papers.
Untackleable QB of the Week
Unfortunately for Milton, like Jefferson last week, his team won the battle, but lost the war.
Future Top-Five Pick of the Week
I was lamenting with a friend this week how there isn't an elite pass rushing prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft class, but thankfully, there's one in the 2026 class I can fawn over for the next few years. Dearest reader, if you are not yet familiar with Miami's Reuben Bain, I request you educate yourself.
The four-star member of Miami's 2023 recruiting class is playing like somebody who deserved a fifth star, and probably a sixth. After a slow start to the season, Bain leads the Canes with 4.5 sacks, with 3.5 coming the last three weeks, including two in Miami's 28-20 win over Clemson Saturday. He already plays with the technique of somebody much older and wiser, and is at 110% on every snap. Bain will be the bane of existence for many an ACC QB the next few years.
Whoopsy Daisy Rate Leaderboard of the Week
1. Drew Allar, Penn State
1. Jeff Undercuffler, Akron
2. Bo Nix, Oregon
9. Kyle McCord, Ohio State
10. Dante Moore, UCLA
Didn't include an update last week, but we're back this week. For the ignorant, Whoopsy Daisy Rate measures the amount of interceptions and fumbles by a QB divided by snaps played. Whether you want a QB on the low or high end is a matter of personal preference. I won't kink shame.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!