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Suddenly, Trojans become a mystery

Somebody better get Ed Orgeron a signature offense, and fast.

When Orgeron was tapped to fill in as Southern California’s interim head football coach – in the wake of Lane Kiffin’s dismissal after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State – he became the ninth coach since 2011 to take the helm at a Pac-12 Conference school. The influx of coaches has led to an offensive proliferation in the conference.

In addition to increasingly popular “spread” offenses, which seek to take advantage of speed at the skill positions by making the defense cover more territory, teams are attempting to play faster, with many forgoing the traditional huddle altogether in order to prevent defenders from catching their breath. From Rich Rodriguez’s spread option at Arizona to Mike Leach’s air raid at Washington State, Pac-12 offenses are giving defensive coordinators headaches trying to defend the diverse schemes.

“There’s no doubt it can put a defense on its heels,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said on Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches’ teleconference. “If you would like to substitute it makes it somewhat difficult, especially if they are going fast and they’re not substituting. There are some definite issues on it that put some stress on the defense.”

But while most schools are in a race to see who can play the fastest, Stanford has made hay by standing still. The Cardinal are the exception to the West Coast’s affinity for speed, taking advantage of smaller, faster opponents by pounding them with good, old-fashioned brute strength.

“It does kind of go contrary to what people think, at least what they say publicly,” said Stanford coach David Shaw. “We all need great athletes on defense. You just have to have great athletes and you have to have guys that can run and tackle in space, etc. But when you play against us, you also have to have guys that can come downhill and handle an A-gap, B-gap running team and be physical.”

Shaw insisted that offensive style doesn’t matter, as long as a team is able to effectively execute it. Stanford’s power may be effective, but it is a dinosaur in a conference that is in a big hurry to go fast.

Arizona unsure what to expect

With a bye this weekend, Rodriguez will have nearly two weeks to prepare for his Wildcats’ upcoming matchup with USC. He’ll need all of it, since he’s entirely uncertain what awaits him in Los Angeles.

Orgeron has taken the Trojans’ reins and because Kiffin called the plays for the offense the Arizona defenders could be facing a very different scheme than what they’ve seen on film.

“It’s really going to be harder for our defensive staff in having an idea what they’re going to do scheme-wise on offense and how they’re going to attack us,” Rodriguez said. “So you’ve got to be prepared for everything.”

Arizona is looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season, a 31-13 rain-soaked defeat in Seattle to Washington. Prior to that game, the Wildcats had outscored their first three opponents by a combined score of 131-26. However, none of their opponents in those first three games belong to a major conference.

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