USC football's recent victory over the Colorado Buffaloes undoubtedly provided moments of excitement for Trojans fans, with Caleb Williams delivering yet another impressive performance. However, beneath the thrill of victory, several concerning factors continue to cast shadows over USC's football program. While their undefeated record and AP poll No. 9 ranking are something to celebrate, it's essential to address these glaring issues as the season progresses and the competition increases. For USC football, let's delve into some of their major causes for concern.
Defensive struggles continue under Lincoln Riley for USC football
It seems that no matter the team Lincoln Riley is coaching, whether in Norman, OK, or Los Angeles, CA, he has yet to figure out how to produce a successful defensive unit. In his five seasons as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, he had only one top-30 defense. Currently, the Trojans are tied with Minnesota for 69th in total defense.
The defense, despite advances made through the transfer portal, remains a major issue for USC football under Riley and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch this season, as evident on Saturday against Deion Sanders and Colorado. While USC managed to secure a win against Colorado, the game exposed some concerning defensive vulnerabilities.
The Trojans jumped to a 34-7 lead, only to see Colorado mount a furious comeback, narrowing the margin to a single score late in the game. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado football's quarterback, threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns, exploiting weaknesses in USC's defense. The Trojans' inability to maintain their early lead against a team they were heavily favored against raises questions about their defensive resilience. If USC hopes to contend with stronger opponents, they must address these vulnerabilities promptly. If not, Grinch may be out as defensive coordinator for the Trojans.
Daunting Pac-12 Schedule
The Trojans' impressive No. 9 ranking and 5-0 start should not overshadow the formidable challenges they'll face in the upcoming Pac-12 schedule. With four matchups against teams ranked in the top 20 (No. 18 Utah, No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Oregon), including a clash with No. 10 Notre Dame in South Bend, USC football's path to an unblemished record will be fraught with adversity. That's not even mentioning their end of season matchup with cross-town rival UCLA. Luckily, most of these games are at home, at the L.A. Coliseum.
However, the most significant tests, by far, will come when they square off against No. 7 Washington and No. 8 Oregon, who boast the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses in the country, respectively. While USC's offense, who rank third best in total offense, has been prolific, can they rely on their suspect defense to contain these offensive juggernauts? They may be able to match the offensive striking against any team like those previously mentioned, but if they can't stop anybody, the slightest offensive struggle will be difficult to overcome if their defense surrenders points on nearly every drive. The remainder of the season will reveal whether this Trojans football team is truly a playoff caliber team by navigating through this treacherous conference schedule.
Despite their recent victory, USC's standing in the polls has been less than stable. After a 42-28 win over Arizona State, the Trojans fell three spots in the rankings, raising concerns about their perceived strength in the eyes of voters. If USC wishes to maintain its status as a top-10 team, they must deliver more convincing victories and address the issues that have contributed to their inconsistent poll performance.