The Trojans are coming off of a dominant performance over their week two opponent, Stanford, in a 41-28 victory. The final score may predict a closer game throughout the contest, but the outcome was really never in question. USC set the tone early on both offense and defense, scoring a quick touchdown, and forcing an early interception by defensive back Mekhi Blackmon. Going into their game against the Cardinal, there was no question about the USC offense. It was the defense that everyone had their eyes on to see if they would be able to handle the tricky offensive play calling of Stanford. Looking ahead towards their next opponent in week three, Fresno State, that will once again be the difference maker for the Trojans if they look to continue their strong start to the season.
What the USC Defense Can Expect
USC’s defense has by no means faced a true offensive threat so far this season. Their first test, however, will come in the form of Fresno State. The Bulldogs has averaged an impressive 521 yards of offense over their first two games between Cal Poly and Oregon State. They have proven to be a well balanced team, throwing for over 300 yards and rushing for over 100 yards in both games. Fresno State would be undefeated right now if it wasn’t for a clutch 58 second drive by Oregon State in the fourth quarter. Stanford was ultimately attacking the Trojans in a mesh style RPO offense for much of the game. This will be completely different to what Fresno State will come at the Trojan defense with. They have a very capable duo in quarterback Jake Haener and running back Jordan Mims. Expect to see Fresno State use some aggressive play calling early, as it has been a struggle for the Trojans to contain the big plays early on in the season.
Why and How the USC Defense Can Succeed
It is still early, but anyone can see how much of a turnaround has already been made for the USC defense from last year. They are passing the eye test in terms of being physical, putting pressure on quarterbacks, and forcing turnovers. Through their first two games, the Trojans lead the nation in turnover margin at +8. Also an improvement from last year, according to Pro Football Focus, the Trojans are averaging a missed tackle only every 14.9 plays. As opposed to every 5.6 plays last season. While USC does have a couple of new additions on defense, this is clearly the result of coaching. There is obviously a philosophy being taught of just simply being the more physical team by defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Given the offenses ability to seemingly put up points at will, the defense has to know that they are going to be the key to winning games this year. With the way the defense has played thus far, it looks like they are rising to the challenge and will continue to do so against Fresno State.
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