NCF Nation: Spartans-Trojans 090509

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- A no-name defense at USC? Not possible.

But that's exactly what middle linebacker Chris Whatshisname, er, Galippo believes the Trojans are this year.

"We were walking through the Trojan huddle [before the game] and people were like, 'Who are you? Who are you?'" he said. "We're starters! But no one really knows. Taylor [Mays] has a little bit of that, but for the first time in a while the front seven doesn't have a guy who is like the guy."

At least for now. If the Trojans defense keeps holding opponents to just 121 total yards as it did in a 56-3 victory over San Jose State, Mays won't be the only one with his name in lights.

The Spartans had 67 yards in the first quarter, but after that Galippo and company shut things down, giving up just nine yard rushing, forcing two fumbles and recording five sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. Galippo led the way with nine tackles, including three for a loss.

That's not the sort of effort that keeps a guy anonymous for long.

Coach Pete Carroll laughed when asked how the defense played, pointing at the stats. The Trojans have now held opponents to less than 200 yards of total offense in seven of their last nine games.

Said coordinator Rocky Seto, who was promoted from secondary coach after Nick Holt bolted for Washington, "The defense looked really fast. I was really pleased with the way they performed today."

The Trojans only welcomed back three starters from 2008's dominant crew, only one of whom -- nose tackle Christian Tupou -- played on the front seven.

With the loss of four linebackers -- both Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews were hybrid linebacker/ends -- Seto said the Trojans are more "defensive-line focused." He said the Trojans, more of a 3-4 look last year, are now look more like a true 4-3.

But that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a big step back.

"I don't think there is going to be much drop-off," Galippo said.

How does Galippo describe the new-look Trojans?

"Fast, smart and disciplined," he said. "Obviously young. But I really don't think we have a big ego."

Mays, the senior and two-time All-American, didn't think the performance was perfect, but he was already thinking ahead to the visit to Ohio State on Saturday.

"We didn't tackle well," Mays said. "A big quarterback like Terrelle Pryor can breaks some tackles."

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Quarterback Matt Barkley and the USC defense answered many questions Saturday with a 56-3 win over San Jose State.

A bigger question, of course, is can they do the same on the road at Ohio State?

Barkley, the first true freshman to start a season-opener for the Trojans, completed 15 of 19 for 233 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

There was nothing to suggest he can't handle being the USC starter, even though he turns 19 on Sept. 8.

As for the Trojans defense, which was replacing eight starters, it gave up a first-quarter field goal and then lowered the boom, throttling the Spartans.

The Buckeyes figure to be far more taxing, but this performance suggested the Trojans will be ready to go.

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Aaron Corp has taken over for Matt Barkley at quarterback.

But Barkley established that he will be the man next week at Ohio State, whatever Corp does in the fourth quarter.

After a shaky first quarter -- which could describe the entire USC effort -- Barkley found his range and rhythm and was smart and efficient and flashed the potential that the Trojans coaches have been raving about.

Barkley finished 15 of 19 for 233 yards passing with a touchdown and no interceptions.

He also had a long passed dropped by tight end Anthony McCoy. He didn't throw a bad ball all afternoon.

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Barkley's 4-yard dump to tight end Rhett Ellison becomes the first of what a lot of folks believe will be many career touchdown passes.

USC has scored touchdowns on six consecutive possessions while the defense has pitched a shutout during the same span.

The Trojans lead total yards 450-131. We're starting to see some backups -- true freshman Devon Kennard just recorded a tackle for loss.

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't just that USC went 45 yards in seven plays to take a 7-3 lead. It was that Matt Barkley made his first "real" completion.

That would be his 10-yard throw to David Ausberry on second and 9 that gave USC a first-and-goal on San Jose State's 4-yard line.

Barkley rolled to his left and rifled the pass to Ausberry. It wasn't perfectly on target, but it was the first time Barkley seemed to really heave it. He had an open man short in the flat, but he looked for a bigger play and made it.

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- A 3-0 lead that comes after a fourth-and-9 conversion can only help San Jose State gain confidence.

As will a fumble from Anthony McCoy that killed a nice completion from Matt Barkley. That's two first-quarter fumbles for the Trojans.

It seems like the Spartans see some gaps in the USC secondary. The new Trojans linebackers, meanwhile, are making plays.

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Heard the first "Tribute to Troy" of the day outside the Coliseum a half hour ago.

USC's players are swaggering out onto the field in their warm-ups, gathering at midfield at this moment.

The 2009 season is upon us (if only someone had told Oregon).

It's sunny and warm in southern California, with only a slightly more dense than usual haze in the distance reminding us that the area is suffering through a trying time with wildfires still burning in the Angeles National Forest not too far away.

So, you wanna hear analysis about how the USC offensive line matches up with the San Jose State defensive front (favorably)?

Or do you want to hear about why we are really here?

Two reasons.

First, super-hyped true freshman Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley makes his debut today and everyone wants to know if lightning will flow from his fingertips while he hurls whizzing spiral after whizzing spiral into the firmament.

Second, when the final bell sounds, what will the whole mess of it mean for next weekend's marquee showdown with Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

There's a sidebar, perhaps, about how good a rebuilt -- and injury-riddled -- Trojans defense will look.

But really this is about Barkley and Next Weekend.

All this is to say that San Jose State is expected to play the role of the Washington Generals, an opponent that is incidental for the Big Show on the other sideline.

That should give at least a moment's pause. USC is only a 34 1/2-point favorite. You may remember that the Trojans went rear-end-over-tea-kettle here against a 41-point dog in 2007.

In the age of Appalachian State winning at Michigan and Stanford stunning the Trojan colossus, there are no gimme games.

And Spartans coach Dick Tomey can do some tricky things on defense, though a lack of experience in the secondary will limit his options.

Still, this scene-setter is, ultimately, about a scene-setter.

What will Barkley and the new-look Trojans do today? And will it convince us that they are -- again -- national title contenders?