As Ed Orgeron steps in as the interim head coach of the USC Trojans, he’s tasked with turning around a program that came into the season with conference title aspirations. At 0-2 in conference play, however, they’ve already backed themselves into a corner and another loss against a Pac 12 opponent could spell doom for USC’s chances of winning the Pac 12 South this season. That puts the pressure on Orgeron to be perfect down the stretch which would be a difficult task under normal circumstances.
Orgeron’s challenge gets started on Thursday night against the Arizona Wildcats. Last season, the Wildcats beat USC in a wild shootout in Tucson and sent the Trojans into a tailspin as the team lost four of their next five games. That’s not a performance USC would like to see repeated this season and Orgeron will be using all the tricks in his arsenal to get the Trojans’ playing their best for this one.
Making things even more difficult, however, will be the absence of his best receiver, Marqise Lee, and best defensive player, Morgan Breslin. Lee remains doubtful for the game following a sprained knee suffered in the loss to the Arizona State Sun Devils that got Lane Kiffin fired. Breslin has been battling injuries all season, missing chunks of two games already with a hip injury, but has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the Pac 12 with four sacks.
Without his offensive and defensive leaders on the field, Orgeron is going to have to get some major production from elsewhere on the roster. Perhaps the offense features Tre Madden and the running game a bit more or maybe Nelson Agholor finally breaks a game open. Defensively, USC has to contain the explosive Arizona running game led by Ka’Deem Carey by controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing B.J. Denker to beat them with his arm.
Taking over a team that is reeling after two confidence-draining losses is a difficult task to begin with. For Ed Orgeron to do it with the injuries plaguing the USC roster, though, is going to make for a rough debut in the Coliseum on Thursday.