As you saw yesterday, I was invited to join the RoT podcast to give some insight on Washington State. RoT editor Michael Castillo returned the favor for us here at ACU by answering some questions about his favorite USC Trojans.
ACU: Cody Kessler or Max Wittek? From an outsiders’ perspective based on watching the Hawaii game, these two look exactly the same to me. From listening to your podcast this week, it seems you may even have a preference towards the backup (Wittek) with his arm strength and poise. What’s your basic assessment of each quarterback and who would you hope Kiffin goes with, if and when they make a decision to stick to one Qb?
RoT: The biggest difference on the surface is that Kessler is a game manager that thrives outside of the pocket, while Wittek is a big-armed gunslinger that sticks in the pocket. Wittek’s got the highest ceiling and the NFL prospect of the two, while Kessler can be that A.J. McCarron-type guy that plays smart and within his own game, while not being overly flashy. That said, the way they’re used, and particularly against Hawaii, should be a big factor in how it all plays out. While Kessler threw the ball twice as much as Wittek, all but one of his passes were of the short and intermediate variety. Inversely, Wittek was given the luxury of throwing down field and having a successful running game behind him.
ACU: The stats from week 1 say USC + run the ball = much success against the Washington State defense this week. Seems to me that’s what we thought last season when Stanford and WSU got together, and a focused Cougar team was able to halt the run. What, if anything, makes you believe USC can run the ball at will against the Cougar front.
RoT: If anything, it’s as simple as looking at what Auburn did to the Cougs. They ran for 310 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry, doing so entirely without the threat of a passing game. Add in the fact that USC has Marqise Lee to keep WSU honest, and there should be hope for the Trojans to ground and pound with the stable of backs like Tre Madden, Justin Davis, Buck Allen and Ty Isaac. That said, USC’s weakest link vs. Hawaii was the offensive line. If the line can’t run block, then it could give WSU plenty of rope in stopping the run.
ACU: If USC were to lose this game, would Kiffin be on the hot seat?
RoT: If you ask the fans, he’s already on the hot seat and there’s nothing that’s going to change that for a while. That said, within the athletic department, he appears pretty safe right now and a loss this early in the season might not change that. As long as USC gets to the Notre Dame game with no worse than a 4-2 record, the boosters might be grumbling, but AD Pat Haden won’t be listening. Should USC drop this game, in addition to Utah State, the sky will undoubtedly fall, as the Trojans were expected to breeze through the first four games and dropping half of those would be surely below expectations, even by lax fans.
ACU: What is the aspect of the USC defense that worries you most this week?
RoT: It has to be the corners. The Trojans lost two corners last week vs. Hawaii, and their status remains unknown. Considering that corner has been a weak link for years now, injuries don’t help matters, especially against a pass-first offense like that of the Cougars. If WSU can target the weak links in the secondary, they’ll be able to move the ball and it’ll be imperative for SC to get pressure on Halliday.
ACU: And finally, your prediction for the game!
RoT: Offensively, both teams look to be pretty even at this point. USC has more talent but is out of sync, while WSU has a rhythm but Halliday is prone to mistakes. That said, there the difference between the two teams rears its head, is on defense. The Trojans new 5-2 defense fits the personnel perfectly, and while it was Hawaii in Week 1, they looked awfully good. I think USC pressures Halliday a lot, force him to think on his feet and that will lead to turnovers or incompletions. USC wins on defense, and the take the game 31 to 10. But don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be a struggle for the Trojans and it won’t look like a dominating effort, because WSU is going to give them fits.