Sports

Matt Barkley, USC Trojans Have Something to Play for in 2011

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2010 Season Breakdown

Final record (overall, conference): 8-5, 5-4
Bowl game: None
Final ranking (AP, Coaches’): NR, NR
Conference finish: T-3rd Pac-10
Offensive rank: 26th
Defensive rank: 84th

2010 Individual Statistics Leaders

Rushing: Marc Tyler, 913 yards, 9 TD
Passing: Matt Barkley, 2,791 yards, 26 TD, 12 INT
Receiving: Robert Woods, 792 yards, 6 TD
Tackles: T.J. McDonald, 89 tackles
Sacks: Jurrell Casey, 4.5 sacks
Interceptions: Nickell Robey, 4 INT (1 TD)

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2011 Schedule (all games Saturday unless noted)
*denotes conference game

September 3 vs. Minnesota [3:30 PM ET, ABC]
September 10 vs. Utah* [7:30 PM ET]
September 17 vs. Syracuse [8:00 PM ET]
September 24 @ Arizona State* [10:15 PM ET, ESPN]
October 1 vs. Arizona*
October 13 (Thurs) @ California* [9:00 PM ET, ESPN]
October 22 @ Notre Dame [7:30 PM ET]
October 29 vs. Stanford* [8:00 PM ET, ABC]
November 4 (Fri) @ Colorado* [9:00 PM ET, ESPN2]
November 12 vs. Washington* [3:30 PM ET]
November 19 @ Oregon* [8:00 PM ET, ABC]
November 26 vs. UCLA* [10:00 PM ET]

Key Matchups

September 10 vs. Utah: The Utes will be itching to make a splash in their first ever Pac-12 conference game, and a lot of people are sleeping on them as a contender in the South.

September 24 @ Arizona State: For all of the attention and hype surrounding the 2011 Sun Devils, media members still picked USC to win the South Division, even if they’re unable to play in the title game. This trip to Tempe could go a long way in telling us if ASU can win the South outright, or if USC will rain on their parade a bit.

October 22 @ Notre Dame: The Irish won this one last year, but before that they hadn’t come away with the victory since 2001. The trip to South Bend is a big one for a Trojans team without much else to play for but bragging rights and recruiting appeal.

November 19 @ Oregon: The Ducks have sort of laid claim to the Pac-10/12 over the past couple of seasons, winning the conference title and earning a trip to the Rose Bowl and National Championship Game. Traveling to Eugene, this is an important game for the Trojans who next year will look to jump right back into the Pac-12 title mix.

Key Departed Players

Stanley Havili, FB; Ronald Johnson, WR; Tyron Smith, OT; Kristofer O’Dowd, C; Jurrell Casey, DT; Shareece Wright, CB

Key Returning Players

Matt Barkley, QB; Marc Tyler, RB; Robert Woods, WR; Matt Kalil, OT; Nick Perry, DE; Nickell Robey, CB; T.J. McDonald, S

Offensive Overview

Matt Barkley has come a ways since his rather rocky beginning in 2009 when he was the starter as a true freshman. Entering his third year, he’s the undisputed leader of the Trojans offense and has garnered Heisman Trophy chatter and has some talking about him as a first round pick if he comes out early for next year’s draft. Robert Woods led the Trojans in receiving yards as a true freshman last year and after a good spring is expected to emerge as one of the top targets in the conference. Rhett Ellison will man the tight end spot this season. Brandon Carswell and Kyle Prater will round out the receivers corps. Markeith Ambles has been declared academically ineligible and is no longer with the team.

Marc Tyler led the way on the ground last year and is competing this offseason with D.J. Morgan, Dillon Baxter and Curtis McNeal. Tyler will miss at least the season opener following some offseason dust-ups. He returned to practice, but his status following the opening-game suspension is still unknown. Expect some type of rotation in the backfield with plenty of different running styles to fit the coaching staff’s fancy. The offensive line suffered through plenty of injuries in the spring which could allow some of the younger players to see time this year. Matt Kalil is one of the leaders up front at left tackle, while Khaled Holmes moves from guard to center to replace Kristofer Dowd.

Defensive Overview

Defensive ends Nick Perry and Wes Horton will line up on the edges, while Armond Armstead missed the spring with an undisclosed medical condition. Armstead is expected to be cleared to play in the opener, though. Christian Tupou returns to the interior after missing last season with a knee injury and will be backed up by DaJohn Harris, who stepped in at the nose last season. George Uko will play a role on the interior, too. At the second level, Devon Kennard is moving from end to linebacker, and Chris Galippo should step in at middle linebacker. Marquis Simmons and Dion Bailey will compete for time at the second level, too, which has seen its share of injuries in the spring.

Last year’s secondary was breaking in some new starters and it showed. The pass defense was 109th in the country, and the pass efficiency defense was 83rd. With the starters back this year, improvement should be expected. Safety T.J. McDonald is the star of the unit at free safety, and Marshall Jones will be back at strong safety after starting the final four games last season. Nickell Robey started last season as a freshman and will be back at corner opposite Tony Burnett or Torin Harris, who continue to battle for the job.

Top Draft Prospects

Marc Tyler, RB; Rhett Ellison, TE; Armond Armstead, DE/DT; Chris Galippo, LB

Season Prediction

1st Pac-12 South

You know that feeling you get after handing in your two weeks notice? USC isn’t going anywhere, but without much to work towards at the end of the year, the feeling could be similar but with an opposite effect. When you hand in your resignation, there isn’t a whole lot motivating you to close that next big sale or land that new client. A lot of that pressure you used to feel dissipates and you feel at ease just coasting along. For USC, there’s not that pressure to win the Pac-12 title or earn a shot at a BCS bowl game at the end of the year, but I doubt we see the Trojans coasting this year. The players will be competing to impress NFL scouts; the coaches will want to keep winning to attract new recruits; and then there’s pride and bragging rights. What message would it send if USC goes to Tempe and knocks off a Sun Devils team hoping to assert itself this season? How good would it feel if they go to South Bend and come away with a win over a storied rival? And how great would the feeling be if USC knocks of Oregon in Eugene, letting the Pac-12 know they’re still to be feared? Yeah, there’s something to play for this year.

PAC 12 South