Top player: Dwayne Jarrett, WR
Make-or-break player: John David Booty or Mark Sanchez, QB
Biggest offensive strength: Wide Receivers
Biggest offensive weakness: Running Backs
Biggest defensive strength: Linebackers
Biggest defensive weakness: Defensive Backs
Spring Depth Chart
Southern Cal has been the bar by which every other program has been measured over the past three years, but the Trojans have some major holes to fill this year. Granted, they have multiple 5-star recruits at every position that they need to fill, but the departure of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Winston Justice, Dominique Byrd, and Taitusi Lutui to the NFL will have an impact. Also, a slew of off-the-field turmoil may have an impact on this team going into the season - Jarret is (as of this writing) ineligible due to improper benefits received from Matt Leinart's father, their twin corner tandem has left the team in the wake of a positive steroid test, and several other players (including Mark Sanchez) have been embroiled in off-the-field problems.
The biggest loss for this offense actually happened before this past year - the departure of Norm Chow for the NFL. While USC's offense didn't skip a beat last year with Chow's departure, the experience of Leinart, Bush, and others under Chow was invaluable. The new offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, does not have Chow's resume when it comes to developing players, and we will soon find out whether he is up to the task of developing this year's starter, either John David Booty or Mark Sanchez.
The other big question for this team is the running back position. USC is loaded with prep talent at the position, but injuries and academics placed the Trojans in the position that they had to run their first-team fullback as their tailback for the spring. Chauncey Washington is projected as the starter, but the new quarterback combined with the lack of an experienced back to keep the pressure off could spell problems for the offense. Add to this that the offensive line has a couple of question marks, especially at left tackle, and this will not be the same offense we've seen the past few years.
That said, they will probably still be a Top Ten offense simply based on talent alone. Dwayne Jarrett will be open (if he's eligible), and team speed alone should get them through the heart of their schedule.
The defense will be good again this year, as Carroll always seems to churn out a quality defense year-in year-out in his double role as head coach and defensive coordinator. This linebacking corps may be the best in the nation when you consider both talent and depth. They don't have much experience on the defensive line, but their physical tools and natural talent should be enough to overcome this weakness. The Trojans return only one (average) cornerback - who they moved to safety. They'll have plenty of speed in the defensive backfield, which can make up for a lot of mistakes, but they will be outmatched and confused by an elite and complicated offense like the Irish will field.
If Notre Dame played the Trojans during the season opener, I'd pick the Irish handily over this team. However, because the Trojans have all season to develop their talent before the game, and the Irish have to play in the Coliseum, this game has the potential to be an upset of the (hopefully) undefeated Irish.
However, the Irish also have an entire season to work on their team chemistry, and the Irish have a couple of cupcakes (Air Force and Army) preceding this game, while SC has two of their toughest games (Oregon and Cal) immediately preceding the ND-SC game. This means that the Trojans will be physically beaten up a little, while the Irish will have plenty of time to heal up and prepare to invade Troy.
I'm picking the Irish to win this game and go undefeated on the season, but the Trojans will certainly cut their grass to putting green short, to try to take advantage of their speed against what is perceived to be a slower Notre Dame team. Don't be surprised if super-speedster Munir Prince sees some time in this game (he had the same 100-meter dash time as Reggie Bush in high school - 10.42).
How about Game of the Century part 2? And no Reggie to push Matt over the goalline to steal this one.
|9/30||at Washington State||W|
|10/28||at Oregon State||W|