Well they're still ranked #10 and certainly could easily win the Pac 10 again, as prior year stumbles have not detracted from USC ending up each season as one of the best teams in the country. But this year something might be different. The offense is having trouble putting up points and against Washington, USC did not make the game winning plays that we're used to seeing.
Before the start of the season, the outlook was for USC to have a terrific offensive team with the entire OL returning, perhaps the best in the country, plus an incredible stable of running backs. On the other hand, losing almost all of their defensive starters, the USC defense was a question mark. So the USC inability to score, barely 30 points in two games against apparently less than stellar defenses, has been highly puzzling. After deep reflection, it seems to me that the answer may be at QB, or the lack of a QB. In looking at USC's amazing run the previous seven seasons, they have been blessed with talented and experienced quarterbacks. Even when breaking in a new starting quarterback, it's been a John David Booty or Mark Sanchez who served a three year apprenticeship before becoming a starter, coming in to take over the reins. This year didn't look to be any different, with third year sophomore Aaron Corp seemingly ready to take over. But perhaps like his equally highly regarded high school contemporary, Chris Forcier, now second string quarterback at Furman, perhaps Corp isn't the answer, and that's why maybe Pete Carroll took the shocking step of pegging true freshman Matt Barkley as #1 QB. With teams daring SC to throw the ball with 8 man fronts, even talented USC OLs and RBs haven't been able to consistently run the ball, griding out gobs of rushing yards on some plays, and next to nothing on others.
Of course, the game winning sequence for Washington was the last second drive for the go ahead field goal. In this context, it was on the USC defense to stop Washington. USC's defense has been surprisingly good, with new defensive linemen and linebackers stepping in to field a solid defense. But when it came to crunch time, this defense may have been better then expected, but at this point it is not nearly as good as the previous defenses, as hinted by its inability so far to create turnovers. It couldn't stop Locker on 3rd and 15, and it couldn't stop Locker from moving deep into field goal territory. It was good enough to stop Washington from scoring a game winning touchdown at the end of the game, with Luthur Brown's crushing hit on the Washington tailback causing Luthur to celebrate like it was 1999. But I guess he didn't realize that a game winning chip shot field goal coming up on the next play would have the same effect. So to that extent, the SC defense just did not do its job.