With 2011 ending and 2012 approaching, we’re taking a look at the five most pressing questions surrounding Lane Kiffin‘s Trojans in the new year. We’ll unveil one each day this week, counting down from No. 5 Monday to No. 1 on Friday.
Question No. 5 covered the Associated Press preseason top 25, question No. 4 covered NCAA-sanctioned scholarship limits and question No. 3 went over the new Pac-12 offensive systems. Question No. 2 addressed Matt Kalil's replacement.
Question No. 1, then, is this: Can Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee break all-time records for the Trojans next year?
Remember the first half of the 2011 season, when USC wasn't doing that well but Robert Woods was producing incredibly well? It seems sort of far off, considering everything that happened in the second half and after the season ended.
But there was a time this year where we thought Woods was going to have a legitimate chance to break any and all NCAA single-season receiving records. Through five games, Woods was on pace to catch 132 balls for 1,793 yards. Because of injuries, increasing quality of opponents and one other key factor, he had to settle -- settle -- for 111 catches for 1,292 yards.
That other factor? Marqise Lee. He emerged over the latter half of the year as a star in the making with his 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns, to the point where Kiffin memorably said at the end of the season that Lee might even be better than Woods.
But it doesn't matter who's better, really. What matters is this: Both players will be catching balls for USC in 2012, and they will be catching them from Matt Barkley. Will there be a better offensive trio in the country than the Trojans' three?
It's doubtful. Entering into the 2011 season, Oklahoma's three-man tandem of Landry Jones, Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles was hyped as the best in the country, and all of them performed up to expectations -- until Broyles got hurt in early November, that is. But Stills didn't even clear 1,000 yards on the year.
A reasonable projection for Lee, who will continue to be treated as USC's No. 2 receiver by everyone despite Kiffin's comments, is 1,300-1,400 next season, and, for Woods, around 1,500-1,600. It would not be crazy if they had a combined 3,000 yards next season, which would shatter USC's duo receiving mark.
Kiffin has been very vocal about setting numeric goals for Barkley in the past, so it'll be interesting to see where those come in this year. 4,000 might be the number he aims to hit in 2012, along with, say, 40 touchdowns and under seven or eight interceptions.
All are reachable.
USC will, of course, chase a national championship in 2012, and that will be the main focus. But, as far as afterthoughts go, this statistics race should be one of the more interesting ones.
Check back in 2012 for continued USC coverage.