Nearly 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, Will Laws, the sports editor of USC's student-run newspaper dubbed the Daily Trojan gave some much-needed insight into USC football's state of affairs. From Head Coach Lane Kiffin's play calling debacles to a degrading loss to Washington State last week, the days of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart seem more than eight years removed. But Laws thinks the BC game will be a turnaround point -- a chance to revive a season that is already making Trojan fans nervous for what's to come.
(Note: Bold letters represent The Gavel; regular font indicates the Daily Trojan.)
How focused is the team after Marqise Lee's "players-only" Twitter mishap and scrutiny regarding Coach Kiffin's play calling?
The team seems extremely motivated to bounce back after last week’s debacle. I think the whole narrative about the players-only meeting was overblown a bit; Lee had mentioned immediately after the Washington State loss that the team would be meeting on Sunday to regroup and talk things over. I’m sure that quarterback Cody Kessler and his receivers want to air the ball out more, but they all seemed very much behind Kiffin after the game on Saturday. It’s hard to say if that’s changed, but either way, I think the Eagles are going to get the Trojans’ best effort this weekend.
Cody Kessler got the nod from Kiffin to start the BC game. How do you expect him to handle the flow of the game--especially given pressure put on by fans and alumni alike for USC to beat BC?
As far as intangibles go, Kessler has always seemed much more capable than Max Wittek. His remarks after last week’s loss, which he took all the blame for and promised that the offense would never perform that badly again, reminded me of Tim Tebow’s famous guarantee after a home loss to Ole Miss that preceded Florida’s BCS championship run in 2008. That’s not to say that USC will win the BCS championship – they won’t – or that Kessler inspires the supreme confidence in the Trojans that Tebow did in the Gators that year. Kessler will make his mistakes once Kiffin lets him throw down field – I fully expect him to throw an interception or two against the Eagles – but I don’t think they’ll affect his mindset now that he knows Wittek is safely attached to the bench.
USC currently has the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in the country. How do you think the unit will fare against BC's Andre Williams, who had a career-high 204 yards against Wake Forest last week?
There’s no doubt that Williams has been extremely impressive so far this season. But with all due respect to Villanova and Wake Forest, USC’s defense is a whole different animal. The Trojans boast four preseason All-Americans in defensive end Leonard Williams, safety Dion Bailey, outside linebacker Morgan Breslin and middle linebacker Hayes Pullard. The Trojans have allowed just 15 rushing yards per game and 0.6 yards per rush, which is absurd. Those numbers are slightly skewed after facing Mike Leach’s pass-heavy Air Raid scheme last week, but Andre Williams will still have his work cut out for him. I don’t see him reaching 100 yards.
What are some on-campus sentiments regarding the team and coaching staff after a deflating loss to Washington State last Saturday?
Just about as horrible as you can imagine. Usually after a loss, social media networks are filled with posts like “I’d rather lose as a Trojan than win as a (insert team name here).” But nothing of the sort appeared on my news feed last Saturday night. Chants of “Fire Kiffin!” rang throughout the Coliseum last week as the final seconds ticked off the clock, and “Fire Lane (Kiffin)” signs had been posted all across campus by unidentified fans by Monday morning. The fan base is extremely impatient after last year’s 7-6 collapse, which featured five losses in the Trojans’ last six games. Many are calling for Kiffin to be fired right now, and I could honestly see that happening with a few more USC losses in September and October.
Is the USC fan base potentially overlooking Boston College?
Right now, USC fans are so pessimistic that I don’t think they’d overlook any opponent this week, even if we were playing an FCS team like Sacramento State. Another lackluster performance resulting in a loss would truly be disastrous, and the team knows it.
Prediction: Kiffin opens up the playbook a little bit for Kessler, with mixed results. It’ll take some time for him to get his timing right on intermediate and deep routes, especially with USC’s underachieving offensive line, but it’s hard to not score points when you have Marqise Lee on your side. Andre Williams will be solid but unspectacular in the run game, and I think he’ll reach pay dirt at least once. But USC’s relentless pass rush, which leads the nation in sacks, could cause major headaches for Chase Rettig. I see a defensive battle unfolding with most of the scores coming after turnovers on a short field: USC 24, Boston College 10.Feature image via Wikimedia Commons.
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