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Last week, the USC Trojans took what seemed to be another step back after being defeated by Tom Herman‘s Texas Longhorns, 37-14. Of the 14 points, none of them came after the first quarter. Despite the 167-yard receiving performance by Trojans WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Trojans didn’t find an identity on either offense or defense.

At the end of the day, the Trojans’ two-game losing streak doesn’t serve as bragging rights as they play Washington State at home in Week 4. Last year’s 30-27 loss to the Cougars in Pullman, Washington, would leave a bitter taste as Cougars QB Luke Falk would attempt 51 passes, while USC’s offensive line would be battered with injuries.

Looking ahead to this season, the tale of USC’s frontline is synonymous with interior weakness as is Traveler is on horseback. While three out of the five starters are upperclassmen, QB J.T. Daniels is still one of the most sacked quarterbacks (9 as of Week 3). Others ahead of Daniels? Utah’s Tyler Huntley (10) and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (11).

QB J.T. Daniels

Stats vs Washington State: 17-for-26, 241 yards, 3 touchdowns

Player notes: Despite the fumbles and hard snaps, Daniels was very efficient and dominant. One of his most important plays was a two-point conversion, which gave Southern Cal a lead worth a field goal.

Furthermore, Daniels’ accuracy by completing over-the-shoulder passes in tight coverage to Amon-Ra St. Brown was telling of his “keep calm and play the field” mentality. Daniels also showed that he trusts his teammates – whether he’s facing a third-and-long or just needs some help in the red zone.

Game Day grade: B

Draft stock: Mid-second, 2021 NFL Draft

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: Arizona’s is an Average Joe on defending the pass, which should free up Daniels on paper. However, his frontline isn’t on the same page and that will affect the outcome, regardless of the 218 yards and two touchdowns of which Arizona allows. Daniels may only have 19 rush yards on the season, but Arizona’s just as flaky in run defense as they allow nearly 200 rush yards and two touchdowns per game (Week 2 vs. Houston: 297-2).

RB Stephen Carr

Stats vs Washington State: 8 carries, 77 yards

Player notes: Stephen Carr had his best night of the season, but after his big gain in the first quarter, he wasn’t as productive. Southern Cal is truly ruining Carr since he’s a very talented back. As with Daniels, Carr plays behind a struggling offensive line.

Lastly, Carr is losing reps to Vavae Malepeai, who compiled almost twice as many attempts and twice the touchdowns against Washington State.

Game Day grade: C+

Draft stock: Late third, 2020 NFL Draft

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: Aca’Cedric Ware and Malepeai are more useful to Clay Helton than Carr and, truthfully, that’s alarming. Last year isn’t the best sample size for Carr, who played behind Ronald Jones, who carried the ball 27 times and scored three touchdowns, against Arizona in 2017.

Who was Southern Cal’s second-leading rusher? Ware, who had himself a day with 14 carries, 122 yards, and a touchdown. All that considered, Carr may have another Longhorns-like game, when he rushed six times for only 13 yards.

OL Chuma Edoga

Player notes: Quite frankly, it wasn’t Daniels’ fault for how many hurries and sack he experienced. It was the offensive line, where Chuma Edoga didn’t protect either Daniels or Carr. Edoga had opportunities for down-the-field blocks but didn’t follow through on picking up a defender, which also happened when Washington State showed a linebacker blitz.

Game Day grade: D

Draft stock: Late sixth, possibly undrafted

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: Southern Cal’s offensive line will be the deciding factor in Week 5. While Arizona doesn’t have a defense that screams, “We’re the best in the Pac-12,” they still have the tools to turn Daniels’ allies against him. With that in mind, expect Arizona’s linebacking corps to disrupt Southern Cal’s flow, which may lead to more penalties committed by the Trojans’ offensive line.

DL Christian Rector

Stats vs Washington State: 1 tackle

Player notes: Heading into Week 4, Washington State’s offensive line has allowed only two sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Obviously, that didn’t change much against the Trojans, who have one of the most ill-disciplined defenses in the nation.

That didn’t change for Christian Rector, who had many opportunities to get to Gardner Minshew‘s throat, but once Rector got there, it was too late. It’s a matter of Rector’s speed as the five-tech tried to swim his way out of trouble against Washington State.

Game Day grade: C

Draft stock: Early sixth

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: Rector didn’t see any snaps in last year’s meeting against Arizona, but that didn’t affect a 49-35 Trojans win. In fact, most of Rector’s production last year came via Pac-12 North opponents, Washington State and Oregon State. One should expect Rector to play the same passive role in Week 5 when Southern Cal’s defense will be reduced to how its secondary is used against Arizona’s run game.

LB Cameron Smith

Stats vs Washington State: 16 tackles, 2 tackles for loss

Player notes: Cameron Smith played a bit soft in the first half, but came up clutch when Washington State forced Smith to play more conservatively. Against Washington State, Smith did have difficulty penetrating the opposing offensive line. Furthermore, Smith couldn’t even take away Minshew’s passing vision

Game Day grade: B

Draft stock: Late third

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: Without second guessing, Smith’s No. 1 priority will be diagnosing the eyes of Khalil Tate, despite tossing over 300 yards to Houston and only over 100 yards against Oregon State in Week 4.

Both Wildcats RBs J.J. Taylor and Gary Brightwell had phenomenal games against the Beavers, combining for 40 carries and 397 yards. With that in mind, Smith will be highly involved in Arizona’s backfield.

CB Iman Marshall

Stats vs Washington State: 4 tackles, tackle for loss

Player notes: Up until the second-half, Iman Marshall saw very little targets as he manned Cougars WR Tay Martin for the full four quarters. Even then, Marshall didn’t let Martin travel very far for yards-after-catch, further proving Marshall as the Trojans’ No. 1 defensive back.

Game Day grade: B+

Draft stock: Early third

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: It’s easy when there’s one receiver that stands out from the pack, but in Arizona’s case, they’ve three that could spoil a fairly good secondary. In terms of receptions, Shun Brown leads the Wildcats with 18, where 50-percent of them came from a crucial Week 2 game against Houston, who has a bad pass defense.  Brown also had a team-best three touchdowns – both come from the previous two weeks.

S Marvell Tell

Stats vs Washington State: 3 tackles

Player notes: For most of the night, Marvell Tell missed a lot of needed-to-make tackles that eventually led to scoring drives for Washington State. On the other hand, Tell had no problem making transitions from one side of the field to the other, a trait that’s measurable by Tell’s acceleration.

He’s not shy in being a part of the run defense or in short routes. All and all, he’s an agile and versatile corner that needs to only polish his open-field tackling.

Game Day grade: B-

Draft stock: Mid-fourth

Week 5 preview vs. Arizona: To the naked eye, Southern Cal has this secondary match-up locked in. Tell will be the fastest guy in Week 5, which means that Arizona will rely on short-yard plays to hopefully avoid Tell’s fast tempo. Unfortunately for Arizona, Tell loves being near the ball, but he’s not-so-great at defending the run for good reason.

Game Day stats provided by NCAA.com.

All other stats provided by College Football Reference.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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