While there may have been some players on the USC Trojans‘ sidelines who were disappointed to play in the Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State on Saturday, they did not show it on the field. The Trojans absolutely dominated their counterparts in all aspects, winning the game by a score of 45-20 and finishing off the 2013 season with a 10-4 record, and with a 7-2 clip after Lane Kiffin was fired.
Aside from advancing their record to a respectable clip, USC also showed that they have top end talent on both ends of the football and deserve to be ranked amongst the top five teams in the nation during the 2014 preseason.
On the defensive side of the football, USC contains a plethora of top notch athletes, who make it a priority to tear apart their opposition. They did just that on Saturday by limiting Derek Carr — who could very well go in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft — to 29-of-54 passing and 217 yards, a far cry from the 405.5 yards he averaged per game previously in 2013. Meanwhile, on the ground, they only rushed for 37 yards, and were limited as a group to 2-for-14 on third downs, in turn showing the ability the of Trojans defense that allows them to rank amongst the best in the nation year after year.
While USC was thoroughly impressive on the defensive side of the ball, they may have been even more outstanding when it came to offensive prowess. Quarterback Cody Kessler set the tone of the game with 344 yards passing and four touchdowns, finding wideouts Marquise Lee and Nelson Agholor with both consistency and ease. The fact that the team had seven different players rush the ball for a combined total of 46 rushing attempts and 155 yards only furthered this dominance; and after holding the ball for 41:27 of the game, there was no doubting the Trojans’ prowess.
Moving forward, this ability moving the football will come into much more questioning than stopping the football, as USC has never truly struggled to stop opposing offenses. But with four of their top five players in rushing yards either freshman or sophomores, and the top five in receiving yards being freshmen, sophomores or juniors, it is clear they have able bodies that should be back during the 2014 season.
Additionally, after averaging 31.8 points per game after Kiffin was fired as Clay Helton took over play calling, it is clear the offense has taken a step forward. With new head coach Steve Sarkisian announcing that Helton will come back in 2014, there is no doubting that the offense will terrorize opposing defenses whether or not a few players decide to pack their bags for the NFL.
With a defense that is guaranteed to be amongst the best in the nation and an offense that looks to have turned the corner, it will be impossible to doubt USC as a top five team heading into the 2014 season. This will be music to the ears of fans in Southern California who have experienced a rough go of it over the last couple years, and there is obvious reason to believe BCS Bowl appearances are on their way back to town.