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Lincoln Riley’s challenge against Arizona State: winning the season, not just a game

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USC Trojans are huge favorites in the state of Arizona and they should be. Arizona State lost at home to Eastern Michigan and then lost at home to Utah by a score of 21. The Sunny Devils are a mess under a depleted interim head coach. They lost several star players on the transfer portal, one of which was Eric Gentry, who became USC’s defensive MVP in one month of the season. Their offensive and defensive lines are the weaker parts of their lineup, making them a team that is unlikely to hurt USC.

Trojans shouldn’t bother with this game. This competition is unlikely to end in the fourth quarter. Winning this game should not be a big problem for USC or any problem.

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This game, however, presents a challenge for Lincoln Riley: can he practice this game as part of a longer season, rather than one moment after his poor performance and his offense?

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After a bad game, any opponent naturally wants to fix everything.

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USC can’t shoot well against Oregon State, so wanting to fix the pass is a natural instinct. USC didn’t score many points against Oregon, so human nature wants the Trojans to score 40 or 50 points. USC didn’t make deep passes into deep field against Oregon State, so it’s normal to want to make 60-yard passes against Arizona State and feel strong on offense again.

However, Lincoln Riley cannot coach in this way.

Washington State comes after the ASU game on October 8th. Then comes Utah on October 15th. These are important and difficult games.

Arizona, coming right after a grueling game with Oregon, is the time for USC not to chase style points or big numbers. It shouldn’t be necessary.

It’s not a downtime week for USC, but ASU’s game is close to a downtime week. This is an easy opponent that shouldn’t require too much stress or game pressure.

It’s time for Riley to focus less on fixing the passing game and more on getting players healthy for Washington and Utah. He needs to worry less about scoring a ton of points and bringing back the great attack we saw earlier this season. We all want to see this every week, but in the case of Arizona State, it’s more important to manage your roster, keep the game as minimally tiring as possible, and reduce the chance of key offensive players getting hurt.

Riley usually wants to lengthen the game, give his offense more possession and be aggressive on offense. This is the time to shorten the game, cut down on the number of possessions and get the worn out attacking line down within 60 minutes with as little pressure as possible. That means fewer passes — not as a tactic to beat Arizona State, but as a way to ease the strain on his O-line heading into the Washington-Utah double stack that will be hugely important (and much more difficult). than Arizona).

If USC scores just 30 points and achieves an unimpressive 30-13 win, it will be easy for the fans to think that the team and the offense are not in the best position. The truth is that after a grueling game in Oregon, playing at ASU gives USC a chance to downshift and not go full throttle.

The team needs it. No need to chase style points this week.

May everyone be healthy. Do just enough to win without much drama or difficulty. Then prepare to play in Washington State with a full game and a much healthier offensive line.

Get a 17 point lead. Then put Mason Murphy in place of Bobby Haskins on the left tackle and go through the second half passing the ball.

It’s not Lincoln Riley’s job to entertain the fans every week. His job is to win Pac-12 championships. The big goal is a season, not one game against a really bad opponent.

Riley must resist the temptation to look good every week and focus on the goal of managing this 12-game roster.


Pac-12 Notebook: Should USC fans root for Washington or UCLA this Friday (and more)

The story originally appeared on Trojans Wire


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