USC Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

USC's toughest foe this season might not be UCLA, Nebraska, or even Notre Dame. It could be the ghost of Miami.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It was just a few short years ago when everyone was hailing the Miami Hurricanes as the greatest team of all time after a dominant national title season culminating in a blowout over Nebraska in the 2002 Rose Bowl. Just as the place in history appeared a foregone conclusion with back-to-back titles, Ohio State, a powerhouse program that hadn't won the national title since 1968, shocked the world in one of the all-time greatest games to end all talk of Miami's claim of being the greatest ever.

USC dominated in a blowout national title game, was praised as the greatest team of all-time, lost in one of the all-time greatest games to a powerhouse program that hadn't won a national title in decades. Will USC fall into the land of the way-above average like Miami did?

Head coach: Pete Carroll 
6th year: 54-10
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 27, Def. 29, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 26
Ten Best USC Players
1. WR Dwayne Jarrett, Jr.
2. OT Sam Baker, Sr.
3. DE Lawrence Jackson, Jr.
4. WR Steve Smith, Sr.
5. C Ryan Kalil, Sr.
6. QB John David Booty, Jr.
LB Keith Rivers, Jr.
8. NT Sedrick Ellis, Jr.
9. LB Rey Maualuga, Soph.
10. LB Thomas Williams, Jr.*
*Assuming his knee is healthy

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 at Arkansas
9/16 Nebraska
9/23 at Arizona
9/30 at Washington St
10/7 Washington
10/14 Arizona State
10/28 at Oregon State
11/4 at Stanford
11/11 Oregon
11/18 California
11/25 Notre Dame
12/2 at UCLA 

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 12-1

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Hawaii W 63-17
9/17 Arkansas  W 70-17
9/24 at Oregon W 45-13
10/1 at Arizona St W 38-28
10/8 Arizona W 42-21
10/15 at Notre Dame  W 34-31
10/22 at Washington W 51-24
10/29 Washington St W 55-13
11/5 Stanford W 51-21
11/12 at California W 35-10
11/19 Fresno State W 50-42
12/3 UCLA W 66-19
1/4 Rose Bowl
Texas L 41-38

It's not like the Hurricanes have been bad over the last few seasons, but college football has a way of making it hard for one team to hang out in the stratosphere for too long. While big-time programs like Miami and USC simply replace all-star talent with more all-star talent, it's hard to get every break needed several years in a row to stay in the national title chase every season.

What if Cal's Aaron Rodgers didn't air mail his pass through the end zone in the 2004 classic loss in Los Angeles? What if Matt Leinart didn't fumble the ball out of bounds on his diving attempt to the end zone in the win over Notre Dame last year? There's a razor-thin margin between being 12-0 and 10-2, but can USC's talent overcome fate? It'll be hard considering USC has to deal with a Spinal Tap drummer array of maladies from injuries to legal issues to potential scandals.

There isn't a more talented roster in America with a who's who of high school all-stars brought in by Pete Carroll, but how many of those top prospects will even play? It's hard to fall too far when you have the best recruiting class in the country two years in a row, but there are big things to worry about like the health of quarterback John David Booty, the issues in the running back corps from injuries to inexperience, and the loss of most of the key players in the secondary. Of course, you don't get better when you lose some of the greatest players in college football history like Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush along with talents like LenDale White, Winston Justice, Taitusi Lutui and Darnell Bing.

Even with all the question marks, the Trojans should be in the mix for yet another national title appearance thanks to great coaching, great players, and a great schedule that's tailor-made for a championship. Then again, the same was said about Miami going into the 2004 season.

The Schedule: There are plenty of tough games, but most of them are at home. While the opener at Arkansas will be tougher than it might seem, five of the six road dates are against teams that didn't go bowling last year. The season finale at UCLA is the exception. Nebraska, Arizona State, Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame should all flirt with the top 15 this year and all could tag USC if things aren't clicking, but once again, all those top teams have to come to L.A. November is a bear playing Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Dwayne Jarrett. He can do it all with too much size for most college corners and too much athleticism to be nullified from a double team. He was the best wide receiver in America last year, but now he'll have to shine without Matt Leinart throwing him the ball.

Best Defensive Player: Junior DE Lawrence Jackson. A bit overshadowed by all the superstars on the offensive side, Jackson had a fantastic season making ten sacks and coming up with big play after big play. Can he shine when he's the focus of every blocking scheme? Absolutely. He's more than just a pass rushing specialist, but that's what'll get him All-America recognition.

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Kyle Williams and sophomore OF Chilo Rachal. Throw junior Alatini Malu in the mix, as well. Much will be made out of the replacements at quarterback and running back, but there are also some big-time shoes to fill on the line of the line with Winston Justice and Taitusi Lutui off to the NFL. The machine could break down in a hurry if Williams, Rachal and Malu don't shine on the right side.

The season will be a success if ... USC plays for the national title. Would just winning the Pac 10 and going to a BCS game be good enough at this point? It should be, but the bar is set ridiculously high after going 54-10 under Pete Carroll and losing two games in three years.

Key game: Sept. 2 at Arkansas. The Hogs are much, much better than they were last year when the Trojans won in a 70-17 laugher. With all the new starters, USC has to come out roaring to prove to itself that the mojo is still there. A close shave, or heaven forbid, a loss to Arkansas would make for a rough two weeks before facing Nebraska.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Third quarter scoring: USC 178 - Opponents 42
- Third down conversions: USC 92 of 167 (55%) - Opponents 65 of 178 (37%)
- Punt return average: Opponents 17 yards - USC 8.6 yards

The Last Time USC…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Rose Bowl vs. Texas)
…missed a bowl game…2000
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Washington)
…was shutout…1997 (Washington)
…scored 50 points…2005 (UCLA)
…went undefeated…2004
…won a conference title…2005 (Pac-10)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Matt Leinart)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Reggie Bush and LenDale White)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Dwayne Jarrett)
…had a first-round draft choice…2006 (RB Reggie Bush and QB Matt Leinart)

Related Stories
USC Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
USC Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
USC Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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