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USC’s discipline problems are a red (or, cardinal) flag

Marqise Lee, John Manoogian AP

USC managed to have a record-setting day yesterday against Arizona. Receiver Marqise Lee hauled in 16 receptions for 345 yards and a pair of touchdowns, good enough to break school and Pac-12 records. Matt Barkley threw for almost 500 yards. And, yet, the Trojans lost to the Wildcats 39-36.

Inexplicable, right?

Seeing as there’s an explanation for just about everything, not entirely. There are some things that immediately stick out looking at the preseason No. 1 team now sitting at 6-2 and in the middle of an unexpectedly scrappy battle for a Pac-12 South championship. Depth has been and will be a concern for USC because of NCAA sanctions. Matt Barkley has three games this season where he’s thrown multiple interceptions. If all else fails, blame Lane Kiffin, right?

But there’s one stat that continues to haunt the Trojans with Halloween quickly approaching: USC is dead last in the country in penalties per game with 82 total for 677 yards. That’s just over 10 penalties a game for 85 yards a game. Against Arizona, USC had 13 for 117 yards, though it should be pointed out that the Wildcats had 14 of their own for 129 yards. In USC’s loss to Stanford earlier this season, the Trojans had seven penalties for 73 yards (Stanford had eight penalties for 68 yards).

Yeah, ugly. That’s not something you expect from a team with that much talent and that much experience in key areas. Blame Kiffin for play calling all you want, but a lack of discipline like that is definitely on his shoulders. In games decided by more than one touchdown, USC is 6-0. In games decided by a touchdown or less — you guessed it, 0-2.

Mistakes are magnified in close games, so it’s no wonder that the Trojans have dropped a pair when they needed to play more fundamentally sound even though their opponents have played mistake-prone football as well. If USC was able to cut those penalties in half, perhaps the Trojans would still be undefeated and in the BCS championship discussion.

Interestingly enough, USC’s next game is against Oregon, a team that also ranks among the worst in penalties per game. But giving the Ducks any sort of help has already proven lethal to eight opponents this season.

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20 Responses to “USC’s discipline problems are a red (or, cardinal) flag”
  1. dumbpollack says: Oct 29, 2012 8:00 AM

    Where is pappabush 88 now? Who is overrated?!

  2. canetic says: Oct 29, 2012 8:58 AM

    Gee, it’s so unlike USC to play below expectations

  3. sisqsage says: Oct 29, 2012 9:07 AM

    With their lack of depth on both off and def lines (crucial areas), the Trojans were a reach to live up to their No. 1 ranking, mainly due to the NCAA sanctions.
    Barkley can look awesome…. and then play like he did against Stanford.
    They have to play Oregon, another loss. With a possible conf title game, they could end up with four losses before bowl season, a far cry from a BCS bowl type of ending.
    The question going forward, how do you rebuild your line depth, replace Barkley with a legitimate prospect who can be as good, and still be considered a great team?
    Tough order.
    Further, Kiffin’s national reputation keeps taking hits with weird behavior. You’d think the blue chippers are going to start tuning him out on the recruiting trail. Fla is hot again, Urban at Ohio State, Alabama is Alabama with CEO Saban…all better options for the elite prospects.
    Realistically, this season was SC’s last chance to be great for a while.

  4. crazysamoan says: Oct 29, 2012 10:46 AM

    That’s ok Trojans we’ll pluck the Ducks this week. Then beat the Irish after that. Fight on!!!! Haters gonna hate.

  5. lakesidegator says: Oct 29, 2012 11:36 AM

    Where is the G.O.A.T. ??
    Flunk On!
    Fail On!

  6. thepar46 says: Oct 29, 2012 12:24 PM


  7. addict2sport says: Oct 29, 2012 12:43 PM

    USC has definitely failed to live up to the hype they had coming into the season. But, there’s a helluva lot of football to be played. Yet to be determined on whether or not they will turn things around and get a signature win this season. They didn’t stand a chance at Oregon last year, right?

  8. florida727 says: Oct 29, 2012 1:10 PM

    Be careful Oregon fans. Personally, I think Oregon will win; then again, I was hoping/thinking my Gators would beat Georgia. The beauty of college sports: you just never know. Oregon looks unstoppable. I’d love to see them play Alabama. McCrron would, I think, do well against Oregon’s defense. Not video game numbers, but he’d hold his own. The intriguing matchup though would be Alabama’s defense against Oregon’s offense. Then again, I have to admit a soft spot in my heart for Kansas State. Bill Snyder, by all accounts, seems to be a great guy, who has done great things for a long time, and done them the right way. You like to see guys like that succeed. If, as others have said, is likely his best ever chance to win it all, hard to root against him.

  9. kiopta1 says: Oct 29, 2012 1:45 PM

    Ok ND man here…USC get your crap together this week and beat Oregon. Its the only time that I will pull for you.

  10. kozbee says: Oct 29, 2012 4:03 PM

    Go Ducks.

  11. mrslay1 says: Oct 29, 2012 4:04 PM

    Lame Wimpin strikes again. I’m so glad he is at What a JOKE!!

  12. hor2012 says: Oct 29, 2012 5:09 PM

    You may beat the ducks but you have no shot against the Irish.

  13. abrellbama says: Oct 29, 2012 7:26 PM

    USC has a bad defense. That is the reason for the losses. Their defense is just plain bad. You can have the best offense in the world but if you can’t stop the other team from getting yards and scoring, then you are going to lose some games. I see USC being 8-4 at the end of the season because of the bad defense and depth issues.

  14. seamus0317 says: Oct 29, 2012 7:29 PM

    Hmmmmmm leading the country in penalties? Kiffin – Raiders…makes perfect sense to me!

  15. sssjim7 says: Oct 29, 2012 7:41 PM

    All I have to say is I don’t want any 1 loss teams in the NC game this year… playoff are starting now… you lose, you’re out!

    Just my .02

  16. gfj7000 says: Oct 29, 2012 9:15 PM

    I don’t see Oregon having any problems winning big vs. USC, not because they’re #1 in the country for total avg. points scored / game, but rather because USC’s defense is SOOOO weak. They give up lots of points every week. Barkley, Lee, Woods, and Redd is all they got, but I like others commenting here – are right – an 8-4 season and the ‘Defense-get-better’ Bowl is the best they can do now. Oregon will probably give them 14 or 21 points to enjoy, but at the speed rate that Oregon’s offense rolls, USC defensive players will be looking for the ball when it’s already a TD against them, and not just one TD, but probably 5 – 6 – 7 or more. Should be a great game this Saturday.

  17. norcalirish says: Oct 30, 2012 3:29 AM

    Hate usc. Hate everything they stand for. Hate what they represent.

    That being said, have some pride and beat the ducks.

    The Irish are coming.

  18. vincentbojackson says: Oct 30, 2012 8:00 AM

    If Kiffin can’t win with this loaded roster when can he win?

    The guy has underachieved everywhere he’s been yet he keeps getting jobs.

    USC hired poorly, now they have to deal with mediocrity again.

  19. rsmeans says: Oct 30, 2012 8:38 AM

    One of the reasons that the PAC 12 is such a weak conference is that they have such poor coaches. Not a single coach is the PAC 10 could make it among the elite SEC schools (e.g. Alabama, LSU, Florida).

  20. txnative61 says: Oct 31, 2012 2:41 AM

    LA has no pro team, making celebrities of young college players, and they lack discipline, imagine that! My preference is Oregon to win, and Notre Dame not, so enjoy the spoiler role—after this week–and remember, you got to play in LA, the celebrity capitol of the world.

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