The Offensive Line
Everyone knew going into the game that USC could potentially be playing without starting center and captain Khaled Holmes. What was unknown was how much the loss of Holmes would impact this game. From the first possession on offense, it was obvious how lost the offensive line looks without Holmes. Cyrus Hobbi got the start at center, and his lack of experience had a trickle effect on the rest of the offensive line. Barkley was sacked four times in this game, equating to half the amount of times he was sacked all last season.
Even though some of Matt Barkley’s struggles were the fault of the poor play by the offensive line, there is no excuse for his lack of timing and poor decision-making through out this game. Barkley threw a lot of passes behind his receivers, and couldn’t get in a rhythm to get the offense going. In the first half alone, he through two interceptions - and he was lucky it wasn't more. He finished the game with a completion percentage under 50%, without throwing a TD on the day. Safe to say the Heisman trophy could have slipped out of Barkley's fingers.
USC was not well prepared
This falls on Lane Kiffin and the USC coaching staff. For a team that prides itself on game day preparation, the Trojans' game plan did not surprise the Cardinal. Offensively, USC seemingly could not establish any flow and relied on its talent to make big plays through the entire game - a strategy that almost never works against a team with a good defense like Stanford's. On defense, the Trojans gave up over 400 yards to an offense that lost the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, QB Andrew Luck. Josh Nunes took advantage of his opportunity to make a name for himself, and though his numbers may not reflect the best of performances, he managed the game very well. There is no excuse for a first-year starter to pick apart a defense that has playmakers at each position.
Despite the loss, the season isn't over for the Trojans. They fell to No. 13 in the AP Poll, and No. 12 in the Coaches Poll. The schedule ahead for USC is challenging, but facing ranked opponents such as Oregon, Arizona, Notre Dame, and UCLA can help the Trojans get back to where they want to be.