Friday, September 26, 2008

It’s Déjà vu in Corvallis as No. 1 USC falls to Oregon State

For the third time in the past four trips to Corvallis Oregon, the USC Trojans will ride the loser’s bus home. Fans of the empire can cancel your reservations to Miami, unless you plan on watching two other programs play there in January. And as for Pete Carroll, how much money did Mike Riley just take from his wallet, when you put it into the perspective of incentives and bonuses? Best team in the country? Scratch that for the moment, because you certainly can’t be the best nationwide while sitting at the bottom of the Pac 10. And if they needed a reminder of how they got there, a scoreboard reading “Oregon State 27, USC 21” is it.

Even in the one victory scored by USC in the span of 4 games at Reser stadium, it would be tagged more as a “2004 escape”, since the Matt Leinart team also failed to dominate the Beavers, but did manage to win the game. Why have the Beavers been so dominant over the Trojans, when very few can say the same? Mike Riley. Since Riley took over for Dennis Erickson in 2003, no coach in the nation has been better prepared to face USC and use their home field advantage as Riley has done.

1. Keep the Trojans offense off the field. (check)
2. Patiently and conservatively move the ball. (check)
3. Limit Mistakes (check)
4. Keep the 12th man in the game. (check)
5. Storm the field (check)

Containing the Trojan offense wasn’t difficult, as USC has become more and more predictable over the years. Not since Norm Chow departed have the Trojans shown difference in each outing. Ironically, not since Norm Chow departed have the Trojans finished an entire season undefeated, though that was several times the projection. No one sees this offense more than the Pac 10, so is it really a surprise that the Trojans have more struggles in conference than out?

The last 5 conference losses:

(2008) Oregon State 27, USC 21
(2007) Oregon 24, USC 17
(2007) Stanford 24, USC 23
(2006) UCLA 13, USC 9
(2006) Oregon State 33, USC 31

At the time of each defeat, only Oregon was a ranked program. The Trojans struggled offensively in the first half of each of those games, still having a shot in the end, while falling short. In the same period, they scored early and often against their out of conference foes, forcing them into a game of “catch up”, and making it easier for the defense to tee off on quarterbacks. Pete Carroll claimed this year’s defense is the best he’s ever coached. After watching Oregon’s freshman Jacquizz Rodgers rush for 186 yards, I’d say they are really missing Sedrick Ellis, Lawrence Jackson, and Keith Rivers.

What’s next? Time to regroup, tend to the wounded, and prepare for another run at the Pac 10 title.

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