Close Calls Aren't A Big Deal To Carroll

By Adam Caparell - October 13, 2006


A lot has been made over the past several weeks about USC and its seeming lack of domination and calls from many that the Trojans should be dropped in the polls.

Despite some closer than expected victories over the likes of Washington State and Washington, USC has hung steady at No. 3 in the AP poll since Week 4.

For a team that walked over just about every one – especially in the Pac-10 – the past several years, people have started to wonder what’s wrong with the Trojans.

Well, for one, losing two Heisman Trophy winners will adversely affect any team, and two, the Trojans feature a plethora of young, relatively inexperienced players on both offense and defense.

And Pete Carroll readily admits it.

“We’re still growing,” the USC coach said. “We’re a work in progress with a bunch of young guys trying to figure it out and put it together. We’re playing good solid football. These are good, solid games were putting together. We’re not lucky, we’re not making a bunch of mistakes and stuff like that.”

For a team that averaged almost 50 points per game last season and blew away all but Notre Dame and Texas (obviously), averaging just 30 points per game this year has raised some eyebrows – without merit in Carroll’s opinion.

“It’s just the margin of victory has been much tighter than its been in the last few or so and so each play is a little more crucial and you have to play them right down to the end,” Carroll said.

The close games are going to help the Trojans down the road. Especially on defense where USC features only one senior starter – Dallas Startz.

“Those are good wins to put behind us and understand how to do them and how you have to perform to finish those games,” Carroll said. “We’ve handled them pretty well I think.”

Carroll is, however, disappointed in the lack of turnovers and sacks his defense has been able to produce. USC only has turnover margin of .8 and are averaging a shade over a sack per game so far.

But that could very well change this weekend when the Trojans take on Arizona State.

The Sun Devils are giving the ball away more than they’re taking it away and are giving up almost three sacks per game during their disappointing start to the season. QB Rudy Carpenter has thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions in the past two weeks.

Look out Sun Devils.

“As often is the case, they come in bunches,” Carroll said.

Predictions

Rutgers (+2.5) over Navy
Something about Rutgers in this one. The Scarlet Knights will have their hands filled with Navy’s triple option, but they have a talented enough defense to stop the Midshipmen. In some of Navy’s close games, they’ve been held under 300 yards on the ground. If Rutgers can do that, I think they win and the Scarlet Knights defense is more than capable of keeping them under 300. Rutgers by a touchdown.

Ohio State (-14) over Michigan State
I like the Buckeyes in this one, but I think the Spartans will cover. No Matt Trannon and a banged up Drew Stanton doesn’t help the Spartans cause, but they’re just dangerous enough to put a little fourth quarter scare in Ohio State. I think the Spartans keep it close until the Buckeyes pull away late. OSU by 12.

USC (19) over Arizona State
This is the week the Trojans break out their A game against the Sun Devils. The ASU defense is struggling and Dirk Koetter has yet to win a Pac-10 game in the state of California. ASU allowed six sacks to Oregon. Expect something similar against the Trojans and a three touchdown victory.

Florida (-2) over Auburn
I think Auburn has kind of been exposed as not quite as good as we all thought they would be. That poor performance against South Carolina and last week’s lackluster game vs. Arkansas, there has to be something there. They were dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage against the Razorbacks. If Auburn can’t run the ball effectively, then forget about it. Florida can be just as physical as the Tigers and proved it beating LSU. Florida by a touchdown.

Michigan (-6) over Penn State
Michigan has just too much for Penn State to compete with. The Nittany Lions secondary is still shoddy and the only QB in the Big Ten playing better than Chad Henne so far is Troy Smith. Michigan can wear down the Penn State defense. It’s going to be an electric atmosphere and there will be the revenge angle off of last year’s comeback win by the Wolverines. It’s the third time Penn State will have played a Top 5 team, but it will also be the third time they lose to one. Michigan by double digits.

Last Week: 2-3
Season: 21-10

Posted by Adam Caparell at 06:33 PM on October 13, 2006
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