The University Of Southern California versus Notre Dame, these teams have played each other over 70 times. Between these two programs, there are 24 national championships, 14 Heisman, winners, and 102 Consensus All-Americans, no other rivalry accounts for this many honors.
This storied rivalry started all the way back in 1926 when Notre Dame won 13-12, however in 2022 the outcome was not the same.
Caleb Williams once again proved to the nation why he is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, USC was able to get out to a lead and hold it for the rest of the night beating the Fighting Irish 38-27.
One Hundred and Fifty-Four
On Saturday night everyone saw Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley put on a show, however, one player might have been the most important in winning that game. Austin Jones, who took over as the Trojans lead running back after the injury to Travis Dye, had 25 carries for one hundred and fifty-four yards.
Trojan fans knew Austin Jones was a talented back when he first transferred from Stanford, but this performance got the attention of the fan base. With the help from one of the best offensive lines in college football, Jones could not be stopped and broke what seemed to be a hundred tackles.
Pro Football Focus gave Jones a rushing grade of 82 which is his second-highest this season right behind Week One against Rice where he had a grade of 84. One other PFF stat to be noticed is Jones’ “Break Away Percentage” or BAY. Jones had 59 yards on rushing attempts that went 15 yards or more, which gave him a 53 BAY%. So basically more than half of his yardage came off of big run plays.
One of the biggest stories this year for this Trojan defense is their turnover margin. This defense currently has a turnover margin of twenty-three. Caleb Williams and company rarely give the ball to the defense only having four turnovers over the span of twelve games.
Sure you can find a lot more to be desired from this defense and take a closer look at some of the holes, but, whenever they need a turnover they always seem to be in the right spot at the right time. This defense has turned the ball over 27 times which is 3rd best in the nation, however, what makes this special is the margin I mentioned earlier, the next closest margin is 14 and they have 24 total turnovers.
The name of the game is to turn the ball over on defense and protect the ball on offense and the Trojans are doing an incredible job at doing so. So much so in fact that if USC keeps it clean on offense and causes two more turnovers in the coming weeks, they’ll tie for the highest margin in the last 10 years when the 2013 Houston Cougars had a margin of 25.
Jersey #13, Caleb Williams, if you haven’t noticed he’s a big reason for this team’s success and why they’re able to achieve these insurmountable odds. SEC and BIG 10/12 bias is real and this has hurt amazing PAC 12 teams in the past due to the ‘talent level’ stigma. Starting a few years ago, around 2019, the PAC 12 started to gain respect, due in large part to the success of Oregon and Utah who’ve had some really good football teams in the past.
USC and UCLA have always hung around in the rankings but as of this year in 2022 there are currently six PAC 12 teams in the AP top 25; the SEC also has six, so the talent gap argument is no longer valid. With the success of USC, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, and Oregon State the PAC 12 has definitely been put on the map, not only for recruiting purposes but in general.
With USC going 11-1 this season and about to play in the PAC 12 championship game with a chance to make the college football playoffs being ranked #4, Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams have changed this program around in one season.
The transfer portal and NIL are what teams that are struggling blame and teams that are succeeding will continue to do. This season the Trojans have more than surpassed expectations, and that alone will help with recruiting, however, if they do in fact win the championship game and go to the playoffs, Riley and Williams will get to hand-pick their portal players and recruits. The NIL offers programs that normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to grab a player who wants a change of scenery the chance to get that player in the building and in the program playing ASAP.
Many fans think it’s unfair what USC and other programs such as Texas A&M, LSU, Texas, and even Jackson State are doing. NIL deals are more or less public contracts that promise players financial compensation whatever that may be during their time at the school.
However, schools like Georgia, Alabama, and Clemson have all been doing this “allegedly” for years, and only now that the playing field is being level are problems arising. Nevertheless one of the biggest moves is Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams who will be watched very closely this Friday in the Championship game as he’s the Heisman favorite.