LOS ANGELES – When you consider how uninspired USC looked against Oregon State, you could almost repeat last week’s to-do list.
But there remain fresh issues USC must address because Utah is a couple notches above Oregon State and another performance like last Saturday’s could ruin the Trojans’ season. So here are 10 things USC must fix to beat the Utes.
1. Keep Sam Darnold happy: For some reason, USC is keeping Darnold in the pocket instead of letting him create plays with his feet. Remember when he rolled out at the Rose Bowl, almost slipped and completed a pass for a two-point conversion? If the offense maintains its circus atmosphere, he might turn pro just to get away from the nonsense.
2. Coach up your players: Why is Darnold apologizing to any coaches for discussing how USC could improve its offense? Instead, USC needs to focus on why it looks like a shell of the team that everyone picked to cruise into the College Football Playoff.
The coaches need to monitor the on-field performance, not off-field quotes. Worry about why cornerback Iman Marshall has been inconsistent all season. And perhaps give Darnold a compliment for recognizing Washington State or Oregon State might notice things on film about the offense. That’s his job too.
3. Simplify the play-calling: Does Tee Martin call running plays? Does Tyson Helton call pass plays? Does this make sense? USC makes play-calling overly complicated. It makes the time when Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin called plays together for Pete Carroll look good.
4. Stop playing to the level of your opponent: When has USC played to its level instead of lowering its play to the other team? There was the second half against Stanford and maybe a half against Cal. Otherwise, the Trojans rarely rise to the occasion against anyone else, especially Western Michigan and Oregon State.
5. Cover the end zone: What is it about USC’s defense that it fails to cover receivers in the end zone? Stanford and Texas scored…