Caleb Williams Truly Is The NCAAF MVP
Thank God Caleb Williams was strapped up for the showdown in Berkley. Had number 13 not been under center, we could’ve had a massive upset on our hands. Before we get into the baffling effort of the defense, we must highlight a decent bounce-back from the reigning Heisman winner. While it wasn’t Caleb’s best game, it was a good pivot back to stasis after a few rough weeks in a row. Caleb did a good job capitalizing on the defense’s pick late in the game and didn’t let a late turnover on his part carry into what turned out to be the game-winning drive on the Trojan’s second-to-last possession. Williams did a solid job spreading the ball around, and while his ol’faithful, Tahj Washington, saw most of the glory, Williams hit seven other pass-catchers. Williams wasn’t able to get things going with Rice and Singer, though the former caught a big touchdown late, but did a nice job working in Sophomore Kyron Hudson into the mix, as well as tight-end Lake Mcree. The Trojans have a real shot at a PAC-12 title game, based on what’s happened record-wise with teams. Oregon trouncing Utah was massive, and Stanford has USC’s next opponent (Washington) on the ropes. After beating the Ducks at home, this Huskies team has looked shaky-shaky beef and could be poised to drop a game if Caleb is firing on all cylinders. So, in short, it was great to see Caleb Williams play more like his old self this afternoon; it’s the only hope USC has in a meaningful postseason. Now, let’s get to the elephant in the room…
We Need A Shake-Up At The Top on Defense
Cal’s Signal-Caller, Fernando Mendoza, dropped back and attempted 39 passes. The USC defense didn’t come away with a single sack. Outside of Mendoza’s fumble early and pick late, he pretty much had his way with Grinch’s crew. When USC took a 50-43 lead and kicked to Cal with 3:28 left in the game, you had to believe the defense would muster some resilience and hold the Cal Bears to 0 points, especially after last week’s fiasco. But like last week, the Trojans defense had a costly penalty early and gave way for the Cal Bears to march down the field. Like last week, the opposing offense committed a penalty, helping the USC defense; it didn’t matter. False-start on 3-and-1, making it 3-and-6 `? Mendoza completes a 21-yard pass. How about when the Trojans work the Cal Bears to 3-and-9 in the Red Zone? Mendoza tosses a touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion bailed out the Trojans.
Otherwise, Caleb Williams would’ve had to save the program again. And that’s just the last drive. It’s not like the defense had played a good game but broke when it mattered most; the mediocre (at best) Cal Bears put up 49 points on USC. Jaydn Ott ran for a 61-yard score AND a 43-yard score…IN THE FIRST QUARTER. It really is nothing personal, but this program can’t do anything serious with Grinch as the Defensive Coordinator. For weeks, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as he was doing an excellent job getting to the Quarterback, but now his unit isn’t even doing that. Heading into the Utah game, they were a top-5 team in sacks + TFL. The Trojans have had one sack since; puke in my mouth. It’s so frustrating because of the talent on this team. There are actual studs on USC’s defense, guys that’ll go Pro in the next six/eighteen months later than they should because the defensive coaching staff is doing them a gross disservice. We want to talk about players sitting out to protect their future; how about we surround them with the right coordinators to help ensure that future happens? If Bullock went to Georgia, he’d be a top-15 pick, and he’s a safety. It’s just infuriating watching what should be a National Title contender flop on the defensive side of the ball every single week. Again, It’s not personal; it’s just the truth.
NFL Talent Other Than Caleb on Offense
There are a lot of pros on this team, and Marshawn Lloyd is absolutely one of them. I like Austin Jones, but it’s been the right move to turn to Lloyd as the lead-back. The Mississippi State transfer went for over 100 yards for the second time this season and added his 7th and 8th scores. Having two 50+ yard plays is excellent, and having one in the air and on the ground makes the feat even more impressive. As the weeks go on, I see Lloyd being a player taken in the late 3rd or early 4th of the NFL draft. If he shows tight ball security in the coming weeks, that projection could jump at his current pace.
Rice, Williams, and even Singer seem to be rated higher than Tahj Washington in terms of the draft in April, but I don’t understand how you can look at the tape and not be impressed by Washington. It’s not an “if,” but a “when” in each game regarding when Washington will catch a bomb from Williams. In five of the nine contests USC has had this season, Washington’s longest catch has been 40-yard-plus, and he’s had two 50-yard receptions in the last two weeks. If he can run a sub 4.4 at the combine or pro-day, the 5th-yeat senior will surely hear his name called. Size and age can hurt, but when teams see his home run capability/reliability, they’ll have Tahj on their boards. No need to delve in too deep for the aforementioned Rice, Singer, and Mario Williams, as they were decently subdued in this one, but we’ll continue to monitor the professional futures of a stacked wide receiver room.
At the end of the day, the Trojans came out with a win. But once again, the defense kept the Trojan faithful’s stomachs turning until the final minute of the game. Next week’s match-up against the dangerous Heisman front-runner, Michael Penix, should be filled with fireworks. Let’s pray it’s this game that Grinch and Co. choose to play a complete four quarters, let alone show up.