The USC Trojans appeared a week ago to have issues in a sloppy win over Syracuse in the Meadowlands. Coach Lane Kiffin seemed to write off the stuttering in the 42-29 victory as a product of West-to-East travel, a sparsely attended NFL stadium and an hour long weather delay. All of that sounded well and good and it certainly sounded plausible enough.
Live NCAAF fans now wonder if Kiffin is feeling as comfortable now - he dodged that bullet but was shot down on Saturday against Stanford as the cracks really started to show in the Trojans and they couldn’t mask some fairly major issues that could plague them in the future. USC especially on the offensive line had a nightmare and real problems protecting quarterback Matt Barkley - hence the un-Barkley-like numbers you're not used to seeing a 48.8 completion percentage, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a slew of sacks.
That wasn’t the only problem though as on the other side of the ball, the USC defence looked a real mess just as it was a year ago, even if some pundits choose to presume that returning starters automatically means returning success. The Trojans are not out of the national or Pac-12 championship pictures, but the road just got incredibly steep.
USC can rectify the issues for sure, but it was a conference game. That's the difference between losses for Virginia Tech, Michigan State and Wisconsin (in Week 2) - those losses don't hurt the teams in their conference standings. This was crushing for the Trojans in a lot of ways. It's unlikely that Utah or UCLA, or Arizona or Arizona State, could play well enough to block USC from its eligibility for the conference championship game. But there are no easy games where Kiffin is concerned, not after a strange September loss in 2011 to Arizona State - and Saturday's physical domination at the hands of Stanford.
The NCAAF score, then, is that USC remain a side with problems to solve and another loss will see those problems become bigger and bigger.