There are hard, fast, obvious collapses, can’t-miss horror shows that draw gaping crowds and stories hashing out the salacious details of the carnage. You know their bloody faces: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Minnesota; earlier in the year, Michigan and Louisville. All enduring or just recovering from the prospect of historic failure.
Looks like we basically agree about USC in the top twenty.
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Not everyone is so quick to pounce on a 7-2 BCS hopeful that‘s still by any measure the gold standard in terms of pure, blazing, rippling physical talent. The Trojans are twelfth in the Associated Press poll, twelfth in the "Master Coaches" poll, fourteenth in the BCS’ Harris poll, fourteenth in the BlogPoll and fifteenth in USA Today’s coaches poll. This is not an epic collapse.
It’s also not clouds of lightning and inevitable doom filling the sky when these guys walk out of the tunnel. It’s not even what commenter Tom predicted after SC’s loss to Stanford:
In other words, the problem is not that USC has morphed into a merely above average team. The team sleepwalked through its first few games this season, thinking it could get by on rep alone, but now that this team's lost to Stanford, I think they'll be a lot more focused and blow through the rest of their schedule. Or it could just be John David Booty.
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I don’t put as much emphasis on injuries as I should most of the time – it’s an excuse; a good excuse, sometimes, but every team has injuries and I barely recognize them unless they affect an unusually large number of starters or an obvious leader – yet the ill effects of ill health on the Trojan offense are unmistakable. For all its depth, there is a clear difference in SC’s performance since linemen Chilo Rachal and Kris O’Dowd and leading rusher Stafon Johnson all went down at Washington.
|Def. Rank*||Total Yds.||Rush Yds.||Yds./Carry||3&Out/Punts||Sacks/Neg. Yds.||Scoring**|
* Current national rank of opponent’s total defense.
** Points scored by offense on drives not beginning inside opponent’s 25.
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In more easily-digested form:
|Total Yds.||Rush Yds.||Yds./Carry||3&Out-Punts||Sacks-Neg. Yds.||Off. Pts.|
|Pre-Injury Barrage||461.5||239.5||6.2||2 - 2.7||0.75 - 15||37.8|
|Post-Injury Barrage||372.4||133.8||3.6||3 - 6||1.8 - 29||18.8|
The picture is more stark if you extend the "pre-injury" period to the dead midpoint of the season to date, through the first half against Stanford, just before Booty cracked his finger and tossed four victory-killing interceptions in SC’s second half demise. Carroll refused to blame the loss on Booty’s injury, but he
hasn’t played since missed the next four games, and the offense hasn’t delivered a complete performance since: once turnover-generated points against Arizona, Notre Dame and Oregon State are filtered out, the offense is averaging less than half its scoring production over the first four games, and even that’s inflated by the good numbers against lame duck Notre Dame, a game the Trojans could have won with a lonely field goal. Rachal has been back in the lineup the last two games, but O’Dowd is still questionable and fellow line travellers Sam Baker, Thomas Herring and Matt Spanos have been in and out of the lineup with nagging wounds in the meantime.
What happened to all those hyped blue chip running backs?
• Stafon Johnson: Easily leads at 7.5 ypc and had big games at Nebraska (144) and Washington (122) but missed two full games with injury and has only returned as the third option (17 carries combined in the last three).
• Joe McKnight: Double-digit carries behind Washington in three of the last four games, but only one touchdown. Best game: 128 total yards against Arizona, 118 on two plays.
• C.J. Gable: Had 12 carries in the first two games, out for the season with an ab injury.
• Herschel Dennis: Ageless sixth-year wonder has 62 yards on 15 carries and has not touched the ball at all in five different games.
• Desmond Reed:Two touches in the last eight games.
• Allen Bradford: Fourteen carries the first two games, zero in the last seven. Has three catches.
• Marc Tyler: Injured, redshirting.
• Broderick Green: No touches; appeared against Notre Dame. Apparently redshirting?
• Emmanuel Moody: Transferred to Florida.
As Kirk Herbstreit astutley noted, Brent Musburger could look a blue chip in Stafon Johnson’s shoes that night. And since every opponent since has created the same lanes running against Nebraska, we might as well float another cliché: injuries or not, the Trojans simply are not who we thought they were. Not on offense, anyway, not anymore. And unless they run the table through the end of the toughest stretch of the schedule with scores better than 20-13, I still don’t think we can expect to think of USC the same way again any time soon.