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5 USC

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OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

I think the [52--6 Week 1 loss to Alabama] from last year was kinda good for them—obviously not how the game turned out, but it probably gave them the evidence of how they need to play.

On defense, they've got good players up front, like [RASHEEM] GREEN [a 6'5", 280-pound junior tackle] and [6'5", 260-pound end Porter] Gustin. I thought they would be better at linebacker. [Cameron] Smith [6'2", 245] is back and they've got big-time players in some positions, but their depth isn't there. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson was tremendous, but he's not there anymore [first-round pick in 2017 draft], and when I watched the Rose Bowl, I thought what they needed was more players like him in their secondary. Iman Marshall [6'1", 200] and Marvell Tell III [6'3", 190] can play, and they're juniors now and have a year in the system, so that should help.

I think [sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold] is excellent. He's got a good arm. He's accurate. That's the biggest thing: Sometimes guys that have the good arm don't have the accuracy that he has. The quarterback from UCLA that everybody talks about [junior Josh Rosen] took a step backward last year. If Darnold doesn't take that type of step back, I would anticipate him dominating because they coach 'em pretty well on offense at USC.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % (11TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT (37TH)

YARDS PER CARRY (32ND)

COMPLETION % (9TH)

SACKS ALLOWED (6TH)

TURNOVERS LOST (68TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE (22ND)

YARDS PER PLAY (28TH)

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS (1 TO 128)

[The following text appears within an illustration. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual illustration.]

THIRD-DOWN CONVERSION % ALLOWED (29TH)

YARDS PER PASS ATTEMPT ALLOWED (30TH)

YARDS PER CARRY ALLOWED (42ND)

COMPLETION % ALLOWED (47TH)

SACKS (65TH)

TURNOVERS GAINED (60TH)

POINTS PER DRIVE ALLOWED (36TH)

YARDS PER PLAY ALLOWED (44TH)

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RATING

47

USC avoids Washington and faces Stanford (9/9) at home in Pac-12 play, but the Trojans must overcome road tests against Washington State (9/29) and Notre Dame (10/21). With no bye week, USC could be running on fumes by the time it meets crosstown rival UCLA (11/18).

THE PLAYER TO KNOW

Opponents will need to drop extra defenders into coverage to counter sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold's pinpoint passing. That should leave more room along the line of scrimmage for running back RONALD JONES II. The 6'1", 195-pound junior is a big-play threat who can burst through tight holes, gallop away from pursuers, shake open-field tacklers and make an impact as a receiver. Jones tallied 1,082 yards on 6.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns last season despite splitting touches. Now that he's taking on a larger workload, his production should only improve. Darnold is talented, but he could struggle if he doesn't have a potent ground game to support him.