LOS ANGELES, CA (News4usonline) – Getting to the Rose Bowl Game would be a nice gift for Clay Helton and the USC football team to deliver to the Trojan faithful. But first things are first. They have to take care of the business at hand, and that’s running the table of their remaining games against Pac-12 Conference opponents.
There is still a lot of football left to be played in the Pac-12 Conference. That could be both a good and bad thing for the Trojans. So far, their schedule has worked well in the Trojans’ favor. After dismissing Arizona with a 41-14 win at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, USC is sitting pretty in its quest to represent the Pac-12 Conference South Division in the conference title game in December.
The Trojans have proven already that they can play with the big boys, knocking off No. 12 Utah with an early-season win in September, and taking No. 8 (AP Top 25) Notre Dame down to the wire before dropping a close road game to the Fighting Irish.
Even with starting quarterback TJ Daniels being lost to the season, the Trojans have played competitively in every ballgame this season. However, there is a ton of work to do for the Trojans. The first step would be for the team to move from its second-place standing in the conference to first place.
To do that, USC will need some help from other Pac-12 teams to assist them in dropping Utah from atop the division standings. Even though USC handed the Utes a stunning defeat back in September, Utah (6-1) currently has a better overall record than the Trojans (4-3).
But the way USC has played thus far against Pac-12 opponents, it’s probably a good assumption that the Trojans are more than able to meet the challenges that are expected to come their way.
Out of the final five conference games remaining on their schedule, the Trojans have the luxury of going up against two Top 20 college football teams they have to contend with. The Trojans have a home date at No. 11 Oregon on Nov. 2. USC then follow up that head-to-head matchup with the Ducks with a road game against No. 24 Arizona State.
That’s not to mention the trap game against crosstown rival UCLA that USC will have to play in their home and the regular-season finale. What does all that mean for USC? It means that the outcome of their season-whether they have the opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day or languish in the bottom throes of the conference without a bowl invite-depends largely on how well the Trojans play the rest of the way.
The Trojans kicked off the second half of their season with a convincing thumping of Arizona during the university’s Homecoming/Reunion Weekend. They accomplished this by playing well in all phases of a football game. That includes dominating across the board in special teams, on offense and defense. Let’s start with the USC defense.
The Trojans bottled up Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate all night and rendered the Wildcats quarterback into a listless statue the entire evening. Tate found himself harassed and battered all night by the USC defense. Tate finished the game with just 47 yards passing and a negative 27 in the rushing department.
He ended up being benched for the game in favor of backup Grant Gunnell, who came in and completed two touchdown passes in garbage time. Tate’s longest play from scrimmage running the ball was a meager four yards. In short, the Trojans’ defense made Tate completely ineffective.
What probably tipped the game early in USC’s favor was two early fumbles by Arizona in the first half quarter the Trojans converted into a 10-0 lead. It was all downhill from there for the Wildcats, which didn’t do much of anything offensively until the fourth quarter when they put up those 14 meaningless points.
While the defensive unit was working up a sweat to keep Tate and the Arizona offense contained, USC ran away to a 27-0 lead before the Wildcats managed to put their first points on the scoreboard. As they have done in previous games, the Trojans used a balanced attack from the passing and their rushing units to beat Arizona.
Led by Kenan Christon’s 103 yards and two touchdowns, USC rushed for 201 yards as a team against the Wildcats. Kedon Slovis, who has played well since taking over for Daniels in Week 1, passed for 232 yards and a pair of scores through the air. If the Trojans continue to get this kind of production the rest of the way, playing on New Year’s Day could very well be a reality.