USC was also 5-4 at this stage last season. Then came losses to CAL, UCLA and ND. With all eyes on likely-to-be-fired Clay Helton, USC has to deal with the following four areas to successfully close this season after losing four of its last five games in 2018, per The Athletic.
1) Mobile Quarterbacks — The main issues against quarterbacks have been containment. Aside from the ARIZ game, the Trojans haven’t been consistent in maintaining their pass rush lanes. Tackling has been a big problem throughout the course of the season as well, as the USC defenders have been in the position to sack quarterbacks, but they have evaded pressure.
2) Justin Wilcox and Tim DeRuyter — Wilcox and DeRuyter have been at the helm of the CAL program for three seasons now as head coach and DC, respectively. They’ve faced off with USC twice and created problems for the Trojans’ offense both times.
USC’s offense, even with its injuries, has been better this season than in 2018, but the Bears still represent a tough matchup for Trojans OC Graham Harrell, who has leaned on the pass game more with USC’s depleted RB depth.
3) Joshua Kelley — Nobody has run for more yards in a single game in the history of the USC-UCLA rivalry than Kelley’s 289 last season. It was quite a shocking display to watch unfold, as Kelley consistently found holes in the Trojsan defense and continually shredded USC in the Bruins’ 34-27 win.
USC’s rushing defense now allows 4.77 ypc, which is much worse than a year ago and ranks 95th nationally.
4) Last Year’s Late Fade — The Trojans no longer have the inside track to a Pac-12 South title. The widespread assumption among outsiders is that their coach won’t be there next season. And after a 32-point loss to Oregon, people are writing them off once again. If the Trojans truly learned from last season’s ugly finish, then the proof will show itself over these next three weeks.
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