The USC Trojans have two games remaining on the season — a non-conference matchup with an AP Top 25 team and a rescheduled conference matchup with a team doing just as bad as the Trojans.
And they need to win both games in order to be bowl eligible. Go figure.
This weekend, USC (4-6, 3-5) is hosting No. 13 Brigham Young University (9-2), who has beat four Pac-12 teams this season — Utah and Arizona State being the only ranked opponents of their entire schedule.
Interim head coach Donte Williams spoke to the media following Tuesday’s practice and was asked about the team’s mental state after 10 games.
“You know what? There’s a saying, and the saying is: tough times don’t last, tough people do,” he said. “So I think all of these guys are getting more prepared for life than just football right now. So there’s going to be a lot of things that happen in life that doesn’t truly go the way they plan them to go and it’s going to be a challenge, and I think they’re learning how to deal with adversity and learning how to deal with challenges and continue to push forward.”
It’s going to be the battle of average offenses and below-average defenses.
BYU ranks 20th in college football in total yards per game with 496.4 while USC is ranked 27th with 446 yards per game.
Defensively, BYU has allowed on average 380.4 total yards per game — 73rd best in CFB — while USC has allowed 417.7 per game — 93rd best.
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall has completed 64% of his passes for 2,307 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. Their offense is pretty balanced, but their passing game is used more often than their running game — just like USC.
They should be looking to take advantage of the Trojans secondary that has given up an average of 244.9 yards in the air this season. In addition, USC is even worse against the running game, so BYU running back Tyler Allgeier should have a great game if they call his number enough.
USC defensive coordinator Todd Orlando spoke to the media after Wednesday’s practice and talked about the mistakes they’ve been having all season long.
“It’s just a handful of critical mistakes sometimes, but just, sometimes it’s eye discipline, and you know, it’s hard to kind of gather it all up at times,” he said. “When you go against somebody that’s good or you get into some of these teams that have elite guys — draftable guys — you make one bad [read] with your eyes — if you’re bad with your eyes, bad with your feet, just these small critical moments, or the seconds before you miss a play, and that’s the part that’s digging into me the most.”
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis has completed 65% of his passes for 2,153 yards with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions — but he’s still injured and won’t be playing Saturday.
USC starting quarterback Jaxson Dart has played in two complete games and split reps with Slovis in two more this season. He has completed 60.2% of passes for 914 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
Dart was asked after practice Tuesday his plan against BYU’s defense.
“Just stay patient with my eyes and go through my reads,” he said. “You know, with drop eight, it’s not like they’re gonna get a lot of pressure on me, so I’m gonna have some time. And I’ve just got to take what the defense gives me and, you know, we’ll slowly march down the field, if that’s what it takes. So I would just say the biggest thing is just the discipline of my eyes and my reads.”
Like the Trojans, BYU has given up a lot of yards in the air this season — 234.4, to be exact. USC should look to take advantage of the Cougars’ secondary as well and get down the field.
Though BYU is better with the rush, the Trojans should always go to the running game at different times in the game.
USC running back Keaontay Ingram has rushed for 911 yards this season on 156 carries with five touchdowns, and his strong running puts him near the top-five in the conference statistically in the categories.
The Trojans passing game is definitely missing USC wide receiver Drake London, who still leads the Pac-12 in receptions and receiving yards despite only having played in eight games.
USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell spoke highly of Bryant.
“I think that Gary is a kid that since he’s been here, he’s never complained — he’s never griped — he just shows up and works with great attitude,” he said. “It seems like every single week, he’s got better and better and better. But I think that’s a testament to the type of guy he is and the type of kid he’s been and just the way he shows up every day. When you show up and do things right and work hard every single day and don’t worry about what else is going on around you, I think you just see yourself get better every day.“
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
BYU is also a 7-point favorite to beat USC according to MyBookie Sportsbook.