In 2023, USC defense has to get stops without forcing turnovers

Can USC use takeaways this season? Of course it can. USC was one of the foremost leaders in turnover differential last season, and it certainly played a part in delivering 11 wins to the Trojans. However, when opposing offenses didn’t turn the ball over — something we saw in the second half of the 2022 campaign — USC’s defense suffered. The downturn compared to the first six games of the 2022 season was noticeable.

Of course USC would love to keep taking away the ball, and yes, in big games, the Trojans will gladly take any turnovers an opposing offense can offer. It would be fantastic if Sam Hartman of Notre Dame and Michael Penix of Washington throw three interceptions against USC. Do we want turnovers from this defense? Yes.

However, if we are being realistic about this team’s chances of winning the Pac-12 and making the College Football Playoff, we will likely need to see the USC defense get off the field without creating turnovers. USC has to be better at creating three-and-outs and and being better on third and fourth down this season.

We talked to Mountain West Wire about this before the Trojans’ season opener versus San Jose State:

“It’s all about Alex Grinch’s defense. Grinch’s one really good season as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma was in 2020, the pandemic year. We all know that was a weird year in terms of what teams and coaching staffs were able to do. Grinch benefited from other teams’ lack of practice and preparation. He simply has to deliver the goods, or he should be gone. We will see if USC can get 3-and-outs instead of relying on turnovers the way it did last year. It’s prove-it time in Los Angeles.”

We later added this comment:

“The key point, though, is that while the average number of points allowed is important, it’s more about not having a catastrophic individual game such as the two Utah games. Can USC go through a full season without allowing 40 points in any single game? That might be the most important question of all.”

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire