The USC Trojans were expecting big things in 2012. They had Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley back at quarterback to lead them back to a BCS Championship, as well as an experienced and talented wide receiving corps plus a top running back transfer in Silas Redd from the Penn State Nittany Lions. Everything seemed to be lining up for Lane Kiffin to lead USC to a national championship this 2012 NCAA Football season.
Fast forward a few months, and that is no longer an option.
At this point, the Trojans can still make some noise, but they are not playing for the BCS Championship. The Pac 12 Championship. Maybe. Pride? Sure. Kiffin’s job? Absolutely.
The Trojans are 7-3 this season, with all three losses coming in conference play. That is not a bad record, but for the preseason favorite to drop three games with two or three difficult ones remaining before even thinking about a bowl game is another story.
Granted, USC has played a brutal schedule this season. The Pac 12 is stronger than people predicted. While the Trojans have lost three games this season, they have not been bad losses. Well, at least two of them were not, as two of the three are still ranked ahead of them in the BCS Standings.
Losing to the Oregon Ducks is no shame. Every team who has faced Oregon has come up short, with USC playing one of the better games this season. Dropping a game on the road to the Stanford Cardinal is also not shameful. They could be playing for the Pac 12 Championship, provided they can somehow find a way to get past the Ducks on Saturday night.
We won’t talk about the loss against the Arizona Wildcats. While they are nowhere near a bad team, the ‘Cats are not a team to whom the Trojans should have lost. Chalk it up to a bad day.
Kiffin is becoming more and more familiar with those.
Many critics are quick to point to Barkley having a down season. While he may not be having a Heisman type of season, he is not exactly regressing either. It just isn’t the same as it was last year or what people thought it would be this year. That is not to say that he should be blamed for the Trojans’ struggles in 2012.
I am not even saying that this is all on Kiffin. The problem with the head coach is that everything must fall on them, especially in college sports. And I am not just talking about the play on the field.
Kiffin already has had to endure a couple of ethical issues. he sent two players in with the same jersey number in one game in an attempt to deceive his opponents, and also had to deal with the team manager inflating the ball to a different weight than they should have been for another unfair advantage.
Maybe Kiffin really had no idea about that. Then again, can we any longer give a man such as Kiffin the benefit of the doubt? He has been through more coaches in terms of scandals and controversies as of late, making it extremely difficult to take him for his word.
Either way, USC takes on the UCLA Bruins on the road this Saturday. The winner will clinch the Pac 12 South and thus play in the conference championship game two weeks from tonight. In between, USC will host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who are looking to still play in the BCS Championship Game.
Honestly, it would not surprise me if the Trojans turned it on and won both of their next two games. It would put them in the Pac 12 Championship Game against either Oregon or Stanford, with a BCS Bowl Game bid at stake. Again, they will not be playing for the BCS Championship, but a Rose Bowl berth is not a horrible consolation prize.
Then again, what if they cannot beat UCLA tomorrow night? They will then not be playing in the Pac 12 Championship game and will be toward the bottom of the BCS Standings headed into their showdown against the Fighting Irish. Lose that, and they will finish the regular season a disappointing 7-5 and looking more long the lines of playing in the Sun Bowl or Holiday Bowl. Not bad games to play in by any means.
Unless you are the USC Trojans in 2012. Then, they are a massive let down.
Kiffin may need that to avoid that to avoid losing his job.