(CBS LA)- To say that the season has been a roller coaster for USC is an understatement.
Clay Helton’s team opened with a close win over Fresno State, but lost starting quarterback J.T. Daniels to a torn ACL. Backup quarterback Kedon Slovis then came in and led the Trojans to a 45-20 pummeling of Stanford, in which he threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns. The team followed that up with a loss at BYU, and then Slovis himself was knocked out of the team’s matchup with #10 Utah with a concussion.
Enter third-string quarterback Matt Fink. All Fink proceeded to do was complete 21 of his 30 pass attempts for 351 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a win over the Utes, 30-23. How have the Trojans survived injuries to their first and second-string quarterbacks without the offense missing much of a beat? CBS Sports Network college football analyst Kevin Carter says the big reason is new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell’s “Air Raid” system. Carter says that the design of the system makes it easier for quarterbacks to succeed.
“This Air Raid system allows these quarterbacks to be empowered throwing the football and makes their reads easier, because you’re not talking about a full-field read, you’re talking about a half-field read,” said Carter. “You’re already in the shotgun, and it’s meant to get the ball out. We have seen evidence of teams being transformed by this system.”
When you combine quicker reads with the athletic talent that USC surrounds their quarterbacks with, Carter says that makes the Trojans a dangerous team.
“With the athletes that USC usually has, you’re seeing that at work. Fink came in the game and he started slinging it without fear. You saw him get a little gun-shy once he threw an interception, which was something we were waiting to see. But, these young quarterbacks are empowered in this system,” said Carter. “And that is one thing that you have to be scared of, because a team like USC that doesn’t have a lot of confidence, because they have young players and injuries. They can get that rhythm pretty quickly. They can find that groove, because they have the athletes to do it.”
Finding that groove may prove to be a bit more difficult this week as the Trojans head to Seattle to face the #17 Washington Huskies. Chris Petersen’s squad is always stingy on defense, and this season has been no different. The unit is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 59 percent of their passes for an average of six yards per attempt. The defense has routinely turned out top corners, and this year it’s senior Myles Bryant leading the way.
Meanwhile, the Huskies offense is led by Georgia transfer Jacob Eason, who has certainly looked every bit the five-star recruit this year. He has completed 73 percent of his passes for over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the Huskies first four games. Wide receivers Aaron Fuller and Andre Baccellia, along with tight end Hunter Bryant, will challenge the Trojans defense.
The battle of Top 25 Pac-12 teams kicks off on Saturday, September 28th at 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time from Husky Stadium in Seattle.