LOS ANGELES — I sat there as the game went to half, feeling bad for Stanford trailing USC 49-3. Maybe USC felt bad too, putting in reserves for the entire second half on the way to a 56-10 blowout win.
No slight on the Cardinals; I just do not know how anyone can stop this USC offense. The rest of the nation is mesmerized by what Deion Sanders and Colorado are doing in Boulder, and they should be. But as good as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was last season, Caleb Williams looks undoubtedly better. Williams is must-see TV, from hitting the deep balls and tight windows to extending plays while keeping composure and poise in his game, to the ridiculous arm angles on some throws. Unfortunately, USC isn’t playing Big Ten competition this season, as Williams’ game deserves to be seen on a much more national level. Williams will likely go for a serious run at the title of “Greatest College Player Ever” by the the end of this season.
Here are the three takeaways from the game:
At the half, the time of possession was pretty much dead even, and USC was up 49-3. The story will always be the USC offense, but we must give the defense props. Holding the Stanford Cardinals to 3 points, despite the Cards having the ball for almost 15 minutes, is remarkable. Stanford had the ball for virtually the entire first half of the 3rd quarter and was deep in the Trojan Red Zone. When it looked like the Cardinals would cut the lead to 39, the Trojans got a 4th down stop. Outside of a late game score, the Trojan defense was extremely gritty, allowing only 10 points in the contest.
The competition hasn’t been stiff thus far, but the defense’s weekly growth is outstanding. Kudos to Grinch for keeping the boys hungry and active, especially when the leads are enormous. To shout some guys out, Solomon Byrd should be on an NFL roster next season. Byrd finds himself in the opposing team’s backfield so often that he may have to start paying rent or at least helping with the electricity/water. Senior safety Max Williams was super active, recording a few pass deflections and a pick. And maybe my favorite defensive player, Jaylin Smith, is the leading tackler in the Nation (for safeties). With the way the other PAC-12 offense look, you have to feel as good as you can as a Trojan fan.
The Next DeSean Jackson
Every time the opposing team goes to punt or kick-off, you can see every member in the press box whip their phones out, ready to record. Zachariah Branch is the most electric player in college football, and that’s saying something. I remember the “Miracle at The Meadowlands II” like it was yesterday. The New York Giants gave away a 31-10 lead to the Philadelphia Eagles on a cold December night in 2010, and with the game tied 31-31, they elected to punt the ball to DeSean Jackson, who returned it for a touchdown to win the game as time expired. The consensus by football fans: “How can you punt to this man now, let alone ever?” Over a decade later, I feel the same way watching opposing teams kick the ball to Branch. Giving the true freshman a chance to return anything is blasphemy. In close contests, special teams can make or break you, and Branch is out here putting the “special” in special teams. If I’m the opposing team’s special teams coordinator, I’m telling the kicker to send that thing out the back of the end zone and the punter to boot it out the sidelines. Keeping the ball out of Branch’s hands is worth a 10-yard difference. He, like Williams, is playing as well as anyone could’ve imagined.
What Could Go Wrong?
As jacked and juiced as we all are about this iteration of the Trojans football team, we must remember this world is not all ‘rainbows and Piña coladas.’ My only concern for this team is that they’re beating people too badly. A borderline absurd statement, I know, but when you’re onto the second strings at the start of the third quarter, there’s the smallest voice in the back of my brain telling me to be weary about things being “too easy.” Now, I’m grasping at straws here and don’t anticipate this being a severe issue. Still, I wonder what could go wrong when a team faces a formidable opponent (especially on the road) after being on cruise control for most of the games thus far. George Foreman hadn’t fought a fight past the 4th round in three years (12 fights) before going to the 8th round with Muhammed Ali we all know how that turned out. Again, while I think the Trojans are on an elite pace, I’d love for them to get a slightly more competitive game before they hit the gauntlet.
Through three games, it’s the same old, same old for the Trojans—sheer dominance on dffense and gritty defensive play. On to a much deserved bye-week before the Trojans head to Tempe to play the Arizona State Sun Devils.