Midseason review: USC


Record: 4-1, 2-1

We still don't really know what we have with USC in 2011. They were good enough to beat a couple of bad-to-mediocre AQ teams in Minnesota and Syracuse, but not impressively. They beat Utah -- with Jordan Wynn -- at home. And they lost to Arizona State on the road in fairly decisive fashion.

The good? QB Matt Barkley and WR Robert Woods are one of the nation's best pass-catch combinations. The offense, though inconsistent running the football, has been pretty good over all, in fact, other than turnovers -- see four interceptions and six fumbles.

The bad? The defense has been mediocre-to-bad, particularly against the pass. The Trojans have yielded 10 TD passes and grabbed just three interceptions. They rank ninth in the conference in pass-efficiency defense, with opponents completing 66 percent of their throws.

In the preseason, the offensive line was the chief concern. It hasn't been great but it's been decent, surrendering just four sacks -- which ranks 13th in the nation -- on 189 attempts. But the thinness as linebacker has been an issue, as much with coverage issues as with defending the running game.

So far, even while suffering through the second year of a NCAA-mandated two-year postseason ban, the Trojans have shown up and played hard. They haven't duplicated the listless performance at Oregon State last year.

Still, the tough part of the schedule is ahead: road games at California, Notre Dame and Oregon as well as a home game with Stanford. We don't know who these Trojans are yet, but we will shortly.

Offensive MVP: Receiver Robert Woods. Woods gets the nod here over quarterback Matt Barkley. Woods ranks second in the nation with 149 yards receiving per game. He's caught six TD passes and averages 13.6 yards per reception.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Dion Bailey. The redshirt freshman leads the Trojans with 40 tackles -- 11 more than anyone else -- including two sacks, which ranks second on the team. He also has two pass breakups and a forced fumble.