In a closely fought battle against the Sun Devils, USC, a team eyeing a national title, faced some significant challenges in week four. While they emerged victorious, several position groups showed vulnerabilities that could raise doubts about their championship aspirations.
One area of concern was the Trojans’ linebacking corps, which came under scrutiny for their poor tackling and the generous space they allowed Arizona State’s playmakers throughout the game. The inability to make crucial tackles was a recurring issue for USC last season, notably in their pivotal Pac-12 championship loss against Utah, where many of their units struggled to bring down opponents.
Another cause for worry is the perceived overreliance on Caleb Williams, the Heisman candidate, to carry the team to victory consistently. This concern became increasingly evident when Williams had a less-than-stellar performance, nearly leading to an upset loss just a month into the season.
While USC managed to secure a win against an unranked conference opponent, the struggles they encountered along the way raise questions about their readiness for the highly competitive college football landscape, especially as they aspire to reach the final four.
LINEBACKERS: F Two key points here: First, Mason Cobb didn’t play against Stanford or Nevada, so he was rusty. He hadn’t played since August 26 in the opener against San Jose State. It could be that Cobb was just out of rhythm in his return to action. Hopefully that’s all this is.The second point: Even if you allow for Cobb’s rust, the objective assessment of his performance can only be that he was not good. The linebackers — Cobb, Eric Gentry, and others — missed a lot of tackles and did not make the forward steps we need to see. Good teams are going to blow these guys away if this is how they’re going to play for the rest of the season. They flunked.
Looking ahead to week five, USC’s head coach, Lincoln Riley, recognizes that his team has its work cut out for them. They will face Colorado, whose talented Shadeur Sanders poses a formidable challenge. The Trojans will need to address their defensive weaknesses and ensure their linebackers are up to the task if they hope to maintain their status as national title contenders.