Game 2 wrap-up: Inconsistency on the field and in the polls
USC may have rolled into the Meadowlands to notch its second win of the season, but it didn’t gain any style points in doing so. Credit the Trojans for the long road trip and victory over a BCS conference team. But that team is still Syracuse, now losers of seven straight and winless in 2012.
“A win is a win”, as the saying goes, and that’s all a coach can ask of his program. But in a system so heavily dependent on rankings, USC would win on the field for a second straight week and lose again in the polls. The Trojans defeated the Orange 42-29 at Metlife Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and lost votes in the USA Today Coaches’ poll on Sunday morning.
Coaches dropped Southern California from second to third in the latest poll, trailing Alabama and LSU. The Trojans had moved ahead of the Tigers last week, following the rout of Hawaii. LSU reclaimed its preseason position after a 45-3 pounding of Pac 12 Washington. This comes after unimpressed AP voters moved USC from top position to second last week.
What are voters looking for? Consistency is the answer, especially when you look at the last 8 quarters played.
Matt Barkley tied his own school-record by tossing six touchdown passes on Saturday. Robert Woods finished with 200 all-purpose yards, which included 10 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Marqise Lee added three scores and a game-high 11 receptions in the follow-up to his opening game performance. And unlike the first week, The Trojans found their legs in the running game, grinding out 258 total yards, with Silas Redd legging a team-high 107.
These are numbers expected from an offense advertised as explosive. But these are also numbers expected to lead to more than a 13-point win over an unranked opponent. For a second straight week, the Trojan offense was inconsistent. It opened strong against Hawaii, putting up 35 first half points, before fizzling in the second. It would come out sluggish against the Orange, getting held scoreless after one quarter and managing just 14-points at the half. The unit would finally show itself, by scoring four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes.
A defense that has surrender just 3 first-half points in two games, has also allowed 36 total points in the two final quarters. The inconsistency didn’t reflect on the scoreboard against a Hawaii offense that is set to struggle in transition for most of the season, but clearly noticeable in the fact USC (26-point favorite) had to outlast the Orange, since it couldn’t outdistance them.
Voters are still waiting for a complete game, before they can place a definite stamp on the Trojans as national title frontrunners. In nationally televised appearances, Alabama and LSU have scored convincing wins over Big Ten and Pac 12 opponents. USC found itself in a dogfight with a program that last won a game in October of 2011.
USC didn’t burst out of the gate a year ago, either. It began the season by edging a Minnesota team that went on to lose to FCS North Dakota State, and later used a blocked field goal attempt to survive Utah. The team didn’t find its rhythm until mid October, when it clobbered Cal on the Bears’ home field. And by season’s end, there were few programs playing better football than the Men of Troy.
So though the inconsistency on the field contributes to inconsistency in the polls, remember that there are still 10 games remaining on the slate. A win really is a win at this point, no matter the opinion of voters. It’s winning that controls the Trojan destiny, even if it comes ugly in the mind of others.