Midseason report: USC


Record: 5-1, 3-1

USC only will be judged on the totality of the season, in large part because the expectations were so high in the preseason. As in: national title or bust.

The first half of the season, based on those expectations, feels like a bit of a bust. It's more than the defeat at Stanford, which stunned the nation as the Trojans got whipped at the line of scrimmage. The Trojans' vaunted passing game with QB Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee -- preseason All-Americans -- has struggled, while the game plans have become increasingly conservative. At midseason, the Trojans are a run-first team that counts on its defense.

Thirtieth in the nation in passing efficiency? USC is 48th in scoring offense? Who saw that coming?

Of course, a 5-1 start is hardly a disaster and the Trojans could still land in the national title hunt. They have A-list games with Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame ahead, not to mention a potential date with a highly ranked team in the Pac-12 title game. If unbeaten teams start to fall, the Trojans could re-emerge.

Offensive MVP, C Khaled Holmes: Holmes is perhaps the best offensive lineman in the conference and one of the nation's best centers. He missed one game this season: Stanford. Anyone recall what happened? It wasn't just the loss. It was Stanford defenders pouring over the spot where Holmes was supposed to be. And the dude gets extra credit for rushing back to play on a sprained ankle. We wouldn't recommend you trying that at home. And he's a classics major so here's a "Arma virumque cano" to him.

Defensive MVP, DE Morgan Breslin: Breslin has seven sacks and 12 tackles for a loss, which leads the Trojans and ranks among the top three in the Pac-12. The interview-shy JC transfer gets a single sentence because he's not much for verbiage.