Trojan fans ought to get used to being unranked. It’ll be a while before USC returns to Top 25 status.
Lightning rod Lane Kiffin will catch most of the heat, but in truth the slide began well before he assumed the reins. Pete Carroll was the one who gave USC its nearly decade-long return to glory, but he also greased the slippery slope.
Carroll didn’t have the finishing kick required to ink key committed recruits following the 2008 season, namely linebackers Manti Te’o and Vontaze Burfict, who are now sophomore superstars at Notre Dame and Arizona State, respectively.
But even without cornerstone difference makers, defense is generally about the “want to” of the players and “know how” of the coaches. USC displayed little of either in Saturday night’s deflating 32-31 loss to Washington at the Coliseum.
The Trojans wilted against the one-man band of Husky quarterback Jake Locker, who racked up 420 total yards (310 through the air and 110 on the ground) and was at his best in the clutch.
That made it two in a row for the Huskies over the Trojans. But from USC’s perspective, Washington’s shocking upset last season was less egregious. That 16-13 earthquake took place in Seattle and the Huskies benefited greatly from a predictably overconfident Trojan squad that strutted into Husky Stadium with a No. 3 ranking, about to face a team that had just broken a 15-game losing streak.
This latest debacle came after calls for revenge rained down on the L.A. campus all week. There was no excuse. Aside from tailback Allen Bradford’s bullish tour de force (223 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries), USC was limp in every phase of the game.
Steve Sarkisian’s purple visor even beat up Kiffin’s white one.
Kiffin, who tried in vain to explain his team’s lackluster September performances versus lightweight competition (Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota and Washington State) by saying he approached those games as an NFL preseason, is now 0-1 against legitimate opposition. And 0-2 is coming right up.
USC will visit The Farm on Saturday, facing a Stanford team that also fell from the ranks of the undefeated last week.
Compared to Jim Harbaugh’s rigid backbone fortified by his days with the Michigan Wolverines and Chicago Bears, Kiffin is a Fresno State noodle.
Furthermore, Andrew Luck’s command of the blue-collar Stanford offense is vastly ahead of Matt Barkley’s unconfident approach. In trying to explain costly fourth-quarter misfires against the Huskies, the first sophomore captain in USC history said: “I was too focused on not throwing interceptions on those clutch drives.”
That’s not how you win on offense, but USC is currently most deficient defensively.
After facing five undistinguished opponents, USC currently ranks 116th in the nation in pass defense (288 yards allowed per game), 99th in total defense (419) and is tied for 64th in scoring defense (24 points allowed per game).
If Kiffin’s father, Monte, is a genius, the new Trojan defensive coordinator has yet to show it. With seven more games against high-flying Pac-10 competition and a date with Notre Dame still on the slate, there’s still time for him to earn his reported $2 million salary, but don’t hold your breath.
Cycles have always been a part of college football, but many bought into Carroll’s “Win Forever” philosophy that aimed to do just that.
His book by the same name, which was released over the summer, would have been a smashing success three years earlier.
Naturally fearful that its long run at the elite level was teetering following a 9-4 season and heavy NCAA sanctions, the majority of USC’s stubborn fan base held out hope that Kiffin’s youth and brash nature was a good fit for the wounded program and he would defiantly win in a “us against the world” fashion.
He is not suited for such a role, and is far from a wunderkind. Kiffin, an above average offensive coordinator, is years away from being who he thinks he is ... if ever. Al Davis, Tennessee and USC should have known better.
But while Kiffin obviously lacks coaching success and overall polish, he knows football. Realizing the squad he inherited doesn’t have what it takes, Kiffin was busy during the summer laying the groundwork for lower expectations to soften the blow when the pipe dream of a 13-0 season inevitably blew up.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
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