INSIDE THE NUMBERS: CALIFORNIA v USCRed zone USC is frighteningly effective inside the 20: in 45 trips they've scored 40 times, with 32 touchdowns. Booty is a very efficient QB, they have big receivers, and Carroll is uber-aggressive on 4th down.
On the other hand, it's pretty amazing they've been inside the twenty 45 times in only nine games. This tells me two things: USC is a good offense but, unlike years past, they are not a big-play offense. On the season, the Trojans have only five touchdowns that did not originate from an offensive snap in the red zone. To compare, Cal has made only 31 red zone trips (21 TDs) in 10 games - but the Bears have scored 45 touchdowns overall.
Lane Kiffin Loves to Throw Cal is supposedly the pass-happy school, but USC is averaging 34 pass attempts per game (compared with 32 for Cal). Trojan fans have grumbled about this, particularly Kiffin's tendency to throw on first down. SC is averaging 11.9 yards per reception - a pretty low figure given the ridiculous talent they have at wideout (even allowing for the injuries). Opponents have been obsessed with shutting down the slants and bubble screens to Jarrett and Smith, and SC's inability to control games on the ground allows the back seven to think pass first.
John David Booty is Pretty Darn Good He's the most efficient QB in the conference by a mile - highest percentage (62.7%) and best TD/interception ration (20/6). Those are Leinart numbers, and the primary reason USC is #3 in the country.
Return Game For the first time in recent memory, SC has a mediocre return game. Kick returns average 22.4 yards, which is OK, but their punt return game is dreadful (5.5 yards per return). The resulting field position problem is magnified because SC has struggled to generate big scoring plays, and is most often forced to make long drives for scores.
Turnovers SC is only +1 in turnover margin for the year, including an awful -4 in the loss to Oregon State. USC was an unbelievable +100 over the first 66 games of the Pete Carroll era (this has to be some sort of record - anyone know?). It's not so much a question of ball security - they've only coughed it up 14 times - as it is their puzzling inability to generate takeaways.