• John Skinner

Inside dirt and prep for Washington State

Clay has been here before…schedule sets up for a turnaround- Though the 1-2 start has been ugly, Helton was in a similar position two years ago, and it turned into a Rose Bowl season. This team doesn’t quite have that feel nor Sam Darnold, but keep in mind how easy the schedule is until they face Notre Dame. Unless they completely fall apart against Washington State and Arizona, they will most likely be favored in every game until Notre Dame. The Trojans do not play Oregon or Washington and very easily could finish 8-4/9-3 and win the Pac-12 South. The Trojans have more talent and depth than any Pac-12 opponent left on the schedule.

Look for Clay to have his hands all over the offense tonight- Offensive Coordinator Tee Martin has full autonomy of the offense for the first time in his coaching career. Last year, Clay and Tyson Helton had a strong roll in play calling with Tee. Clay was much more involved with the offense this week in practice and it sure seems like he will strongly influence the play-calling tonight.

The cultural divide—Based on feedback from practice observers and pro scouts, the players love Helton and appreciate his honesty and steadiness but the program is lacking the fire and charisma to create the intensity and excitement needed to inspire and get the most out of college athletes. This is something we have discussed since last season and doesn’t appear to be getting better. Helton was hired to steady the ship and give the program more discipline, but within that structure, some of the necessary edge and fun seems to have disappeared.

In case you missed it- Here is an insightful article from Max Myer of SI.com that made that was a popular read after the loss to Texas – USC’s Early Returns in Life without Sam Darnold Reflect Poorly on Clay Helton

Falo should see the bulk of the reps at tight end- In the last two games, starting tight end Tyler Petite graded very poorly (40.5/45.8) per Pro Football Forecast and missed some key blocks and assignments at critical points in both games. Now that sophomore Josh Falo has returned from injury, expect him to start getting the majority of the snaps. He provides a more athletic presence as a receiver and second-tier blocker. Also, Petite should function better in a more limited role without as much pressure.

Look for the running game to break through vs Washington state- the Cougars have an undersized defensive line and lost star end Hercules Mata’afa to the draft. Though they have looked solid to start the season, they have yet to play against a team that has close to the talent of the Trojans. The offensive coaching staff knows how important it is to get the running game going especially with an extremely weak Pac-12 conference slate ahead. They also need to take some of the pressure off Daniels and take advantage of their talented running backs. If the Trojans have trouble establishing the running game against the Cougars, a sub .500 season will be likely and something Helton will not be able to survive.

Carr must get more touches!- RB Stephen Carr’s workload increased against Texas but not nearly to the level it should have. Besides being an electrifying back, he also has good hands and they need to take more advantage of this in the passing game. The offense will be at its best while flowing through Carr and St. Brown.

Washington State and low attendance- A Friday night kick-off combined with gridlocked LA traffic, no parking availability on-campus until after 5pm, the renovation of the coliseum and a 1-2 start by the Trojans has the University only expecting about 40K to attend the game tonight. This won’t be the first time the Trojans had a near record low turn-out for a game against the Cougars. Per Ryan Abraham of wearesc.com, the lowest attendance for a Trojan home game this century was in 2000 during Paul Hackett’s las year after SC had lost five of their last six. SC lost 33-27 to Washington State in front of just 40,565. In 1987, a Halloween contest against Washington State that was played in a downpour only drew 24,834. SC was 4-3 at the time but ended up winning the game as well the next three to win the conference and play in the Rose Bowl.

Attendance Part II- Overall, we are seeing a universal downturn in college football attendance. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports reported that 2017 saw the largest drop in college football per-game attendance in 34 years. Since 2012, the Pac-12 has experienced the biggest overall drop op any Power five league with 4,078 fewer fans per game and last season the conference’s average attendance of 49,601 was its lowest since 2001. –Maybe the games need to stop consistently being over 4 hours?

SC national category ratings…yikes- 113th in the nation in scoring (20.0 ppg), 117th in rushing offense (109.33 yards average), 93rd in total offense (383.3), 85th in red zone conversions (80.0 percent) and maybe worst of all, 109th in rushing defense (233.50 yards), 107th in sacks allowed (3.0) and 107th in tackles for loss allowed (7.83)

USC Men’s hoops has an extremely bright future- The FBI investigation from last year that cost the Trojans a spectacular season with the loss of De’Anthony Melton and assistant coach Tony Bland, could be a blessing in disguise from a long-term perspective. The coaching staff and athletic administration are very confident they won’t be able to pin much of anything on the program. However, the investigation has led to other schools not trying as hard to poach assistants Jason Hart and Chris Capko who have great reputations as recruiters. Thus, Andy Enfield and company landed the #18 class in the nation last year with two players (Kevin Porter and Elijah Weaver) opening eyes as “elite” pro prospects this summer with some scouts now saying it should have been rated near the top 10. The 2019 recruiting class is currently rated #1 in the nation with two 5-star commitments and three 4-star commitments. The class will not finish #1 but should finish in the top five and rank as the best ever in school history. We will have more hoops updates closer to the season but get ready to get out to the Galen Center and support this team.

Extensive Game Preview- Here is a link to Tom Haire’s game preview via uscfootball.com.

Betting Info- SC opened up a 5.5 point favorite and the spread has since dropped to 3.5 points. The Cougars are 3-0 sraight-up and against the spread (ATS) this season while the Trojans are 1-2 and 0-3 ATS. The Cougars are 3-6 ATS on the road in their last nine while SC is 1-6 ATS in their last seven at home, and 3-13-1 in their last 17 ATS.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-bits-

* True freshman WR Amon ra St. Brown finished the night with an 87.9 rating (85 or above is an NFL caliber) per Pro Football Focus grades. He is the only Trojan player to grade out with an NFL caliber performance.

*Look for Washington State to go for it on 4th and short situations once they are on the Trojans side of the field. They have gone for it on 4th down 11 times in their first three games and converted on eight of those tries.

*Sophomore starting kicker Chase McGrath is out for the season with a torn ACL. McGrath was 6-of-8 on field goals and 6-of-6 on extra points. His loss could be a big issue in tight games the rest of the way.

*The mis-communication along the offensive line at critical points in the last few games is startling. On the critical 4th and 1 goal-line play early in the game, an offensive lineman forgot to pull…if he follows his assignment, the Trojans most likely score a touchdown as Carr would have only had one defender to beat and not two. These type of blown assignments have been a consistent theme throughout the first three games.

*SC hasn’t lost two games in a row by double-digits since 2000.