Cal Sports Digest: USC got pushed around on both sides of the line of scrimmage in the second half of the 21-14 loss at Stanford. What changes can the Trojans realistically make on the offensive and defensive lines in one week with their roster limitations?
Lindsey Thiry of SC Playbook: I think it would be most accurate to say that the defensive line really held their own, especially given expectations going into the season.
Now, the offensive line, that was the real issue on Saturday. Lane Kiffin opened the competition at left tackle this week after saying that the effort displayed by starter Aundrey Walker was far less than what is expected at USC. True freshman Max Tuerk, who played at left tackle throughout fall camp when Walker was out with a subluxed shoulder, will take reps there once again. The Trojans were also without senior center Khaled Holmes versus Stanford. As Kiffin continues to say, it was probably the absolute worst game to lose your starting center for, because of how the Cardinal lined their nose tackle up directly on Cyrus Hobbi. No word if Holmes will get the start this week, he is listed on the depth chart as the starter - however that means nothing with the staff not disclosing injuries, etc. If Holmes is not ready to go, I'd expect RS senior Abe Markowitz to step in. Markowitz has more experience than Hobbi but has been held back by injuries.
CSD: Quarterback Matt Barkley delivered one of the worst performances of his career on the Farm. Was it a product of Cardinal pressure or simply bad decisions?
LT: Barkley made two bad decisions back to back. Those are on him. A lot of the offensive woes had to do more with the offensive line and lack of protection rather than anything Barkley was or was not doing, with exception of those two throws. He was sacked five times (four of the stat sheets because of the fumble recovery) and was hit numerous times, including - as Kiffin pointed out - on running plays. Stanford's front-seven really worked USC.... so I'd attribute many of Barkley's problems more to that than anything else.
CSD: Marqise Lee has continued the momentum he carried over from late in his freshman season, but Robert Woods' numbers have come down after his record-setting 2011 campaign. Is Woods' downturn the return of Lee's development, his struggles to return from off-season ankle surgery, or something else altogether?
LT: Not sure that I'd call it a Woods downturn. He's shown a ton of explosiveness on on a few runs and receptions this season. I think it's more of a situation where there are more options on offense than just Woods, but don't think that there is much to read into with his numbers being slightly down.
CSD: The back seven was regarded as the major strength of the USC defense coming into this season. How have they fared?
LT: Bailey and Pullard have been great so far this season - both collecting multiple interceptions. McDonald and Robey have brought to the table what everyone was expecting in leadership and solid play. The corner position opposite Robey continues to be the Trojans' weakness on their secondary. It's been a revolving door between Torin Harris, Anthony Brown, and Brian Baucham. Kiffin continues to speak very highly of Harris, but he's been liable to give up big plays over his head - particularly in the end zone. His play has steadily improved from game to game.
CSD: How has the injury to kicker Andre Heidari altered coach Lane Kiffin's playcalling?
LT: The absence of Heidari has affected games more than I think anyone really leads on. The Trojans are forced to go for it on 4th down in more situations than, in my opinion, they'd like to. Against Stanford, Kiffin opted to go for it on 4th down instead of letting FR Alex Wood attempt a 30-yard FG. It seems to really be disrupting the flow of the game - something Kiffin admitted to following I believe the first game of the season.
Lindsey Thiry covers USC athletics and recruiting for SCPlaybook and Fox Sports Next. Follow her on Twitter @LindseyThiry.
Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.