USC vs. Alabama
USC ended their 2015 season losing three of four games down the stretch. The Trojans six losses came to opponents with a combined record of 48-18 or .727%.
The Trojans will have to make up for the loss of quarterback Cody Kessler entering this game. Last season, Kessler 66.8% of his passes for 3,536 yards with 29 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Kessler only threw two interceptions through the last eight games of the year and accounted for 12 passing touchdowns during that stretch. On the year, USC averaged 33.9 points per game and passed for 269 yards per game, while rushing for 168 yards per game. USC’s struggles offensively in the team’s losses were very evident in certain areas. The Trojans trailed at halftime in four of the six games and were outscored 103-70 in the second half of those contests. In the last three games of the season, Kessler completed less than 58% of his passes and threw for less than than 225 yards per game. Even though the offensive line was injured, the Trojans allowed 38 sacks as a unit last season. Those numbers must change entering 2016 if the Trojans are to win this game against Alabama and make a run at the PAC-12 title.
Defensively, the Trojans allowed 25.7 points per game and allowed 251 passing yards per game while allowing opposing offenses to rush for 149 yards per game. When breaking down the team’s six losses, USC failed to shut down the run consistently. In those games, the Trojans defense allowed 192 yards on the ground to their opponents. That statistic was 43 yards more per game. Another glaring statistic was turnover margin. On the season, USC finished with a +11 turnover margin which ranked 11th overall in the nation of 127 teams. However, in the team’s six defeats, USC lost the turnover battle in four of the six games while the other two games were even. The unit was solid in generating a pass rush and recorded 37 sacks on the season.
This will be the third consecutive year that the Alabama Crimson will start the year with a new quarterback. Last season, Jake Coker started the season with some growing pains, however, by the end of the year he was a confident quarterback that led his team to a National Championship. Coker finished the season completing 66.9% of his passes for 3,110 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. What was impressive about Coker’s overall performance was that in the team’s last five games, he did not throw an interception. Over the last five games of the year, Coker threw nine touchdowns and completed over 60% of his passes in each game. On the year, the Crimson Tide offense averaged 227 passing yards per game. Alabama averaged 35.1 points per game and rushed for 199 yards per game with Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry leading the way.
Henry rushed for 2,219 yards with 28 rushing touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. With the loss of both Coker and Henry, the Alabama offense will have to make up for the loss of 29 of the team’s 33 rushing touchdowns (Henry and Kenyan Drake) and 21 of the team’s 22 passing touchdowns. Entering 2015, the scenario was a little different. Derrick Henry and TJ Yeldon both rushed for over 900 yards and each scored 11 touchdowns on the season. However, this year, with the loss of both Henry and Drake, the weight will fall solely on running back Bo Scarborough’s shoulders. Last season, Scarborough rushed for 104 yards and one touchdown.
The wide receiver corps gets a huge boost from transfer wideout Gehrig Deiter from Bowling Green. Dieter played in one of the nation’s top passing offenses led by quarterback Matt Johnson. On the year, Deiter caught 94 passes for 1,033 yards with 10 touchdowns. Deiter will add experience to the wide receiver corps with Calvin Ridley.
Defensively, the Crimson Tide were one of the top defenses in the country. The Crimson Tide allowed 15.1 points per game and had the nation’s top rush defense allowing 75 yards per game. The team allowed 200 passing yards per game and finished the year with a +10 turnover margin. The defense also had the top ranked sack total in FBS last year with 53. The secondary was stellar last year holding opposing offenses to under 60% completion percentage in 13 of the team’s 15 games. The only games in which they allowed more than 60%, was the first game of 2015 to Wisconsin (66%) and the National Championship game to Clemson (63%).
Joseph Lisi is a college football analyst and has hosted his own show on Yahoo Sports Radio Network called: Go For The 2 with Joe Lisi
He is former ABC Sports college football researcher and owner of www.Goforthe2.com. He is also the sports content editor for two-time Super Bowl Champion Mark Collins website called:www.2fivesports.com
He is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America), the Maxwell Football Club and the National Football Foundation. Jospeh is the Director of Communications for the NY Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
He has been featured on Yahoo Sports Radio, ESPN Radio, Sirius XM, The Sid Rosenberg Show (640 AM Sports) and The FNTSY Network.
Jospeh recently publised his own eBook on Amazon called: “From The Gridiron To The Sandbox”-Memoirs of A College Football Junkie which is availbe for purchase here: