COMMENTARY | The old expression goes that the best defense is a good offense.
But after what we've seen from the USC Trojans this year, it might be better to say that the best offense is a great defense.
The Trojans' defense looks like it just might be the best in the country. Unfortunately, the second-best defense in the country is whatever team is playing against the Trojans' offense.
Last weekend, USC was able to eke out a win against Utah State -- a team that had scored almost 50 points per game coming in. It only managed to score 14 points against the stifling Trojans defense. However, USC was only slightly better, scoring 17 points.
Utah State has a solid run defense and it has been weak against the pass, however, as everyone else, against the Trojans offense it looked fierce. There should have been more opportunities for quarterback Cody Kessler to move USC down the field, however, the offense continued to struggle.
A win is a win. And it's certainly better than losing. But the last thing anyone should be thinking is that this team has any semblance of a complete team. The Trojans finished off their soft early-season schedule with three wins, one loss and lot of questions about the offense.
At this point, the team isn't fooling anyone. There's no one mistaking this team for a BCS Bowl team. The Trojans are treading water in a sea of mediocrity. The defense has been keeping them afloat while the offense just bobs up and down, waiting for the sweet relief of death.
And a with a program as high-profile as USC, there's always a bunch of rubber-neckers hoping to catch a glimpse of it sinking to the bottom.
The Pac-12 schedule goes into full swing this weekend and USC gets its first real taste of a quality team in the Arizona State Sun Devils. They've got one of those high-powered offenses that passes a lot.
Strange things can happen when teams start chucking the ball down field -- especially at the college level. You can count on ASU throwing around 50 passes in this game, and it would take only a few of those to break for the Trojans to be in real trouble.
Among the many weaknesses in the offense, it just isn't designed to come from behind. A lot like the San Francisco 49ers of late, they're heavy on defense and have a ball-control offense that tends to come up short if the other team builds a lead.
The Sun Devils are favored in the game by a touchdown. While I can see them winning the game, my guess is it will be very close. The Trojans' defense will be the toughest they've seen so far this season and it's sure to give fits to quarterback Taylor Kelly and coach Todd Graham -- and even more so if they stick to their somewhat conservative playcalling.
However, it's just as sure that, win or lose, ASU defensive coordinator Paul Randolph will come out of this game smelling like a rose as the Trojans continue their charity work for embattled defensive coaches.
ASU's defense does give up yards on the ground and despite the Trojans' offensive woes, there have been signs that USC might have a decent running game. So, if the Trojans are going to bust through this offensive malaise against the Sun Devils, it's probably going to be power football on the ground, bulldozing down the field.
However, here we are talking about the USC Trojans' offense and using words like "decent," "adequate" and "probably not the worst ever." And in these modern times, defense-first, mediocre-offense teams just aren't what fans of the Trojans or college football want to see.
This defense has a chance to really be something special. But the offense needs to catch up quick or this season might end up sinking into the depths.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. You can see him on Twitter @JedRigney.
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