It’s been a disappointing season for the USC Trojans who became the first team to start as the preseason No. 1 and eventually become unranked since the 1964 Ole Miss Rebels. The Trojans were never able to play consistently up to the potential that voters thought they had, and their athletic director Pat Haden is admitting that maybe USC wasn’t that good to begin with.
In comments to reporters, Haden admitted “We were probably over hyped at the beginning of the season to be honest,” which is a refreshingly candid evaluation of his program. And it’s accurate, too.
The Trojans entered 2012 with the Heisman Trophy frontrunner at quarterback, Matt Barkley, with a pair of NFL-caliber wide receivers in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods to throw to and a backfield with 1,000-yard rusher Curtis McNeal and transfer Silas Redd. In short, they had all the shiny accessories to be the highest-flying team in college football.
But what many people, voters, media and school officials included, failed to notice were the details. Little details like depth in some important areas, such as: offensive line, defensive line, defensive secondary, linebackers…everywhere else basically that makes up the engine of a team. While the shiny accessories are nice to look at, without the engine to make it go, the team quickly ran into trouble.
It started against the Stanford Cardinal when the offensive line, banged up from the early season schedule, couldn’t keep Matt Barkley on his feet. Then the defense began to fall apart and couldn’t stop the Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks or UCLA Bruins from doing just about anything they wanted to as the Trojans have dropped three of their last four games.
Now the team faces the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who are undefeated and playing for a spot in the BCS National Championship, which is where USC expected to be headed way back in August. USC will try and play spoiler with the same beat-up offensive line, the same undermanned defense and now a freshman quarterback making his first career start. Good luck with that.
If the Trojans lose, they’ll finish the year at 7-5, unranked and possibly finishing as low as seventh in the Pac 12. That would send them to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl which is a disaster for a team that was fully expecting to play in Miami on January 7.
These bad times have turned up the heat on Lane Kiffin, who is the last hire of the disgraced regime before Pat Haden took over. Many thought that Kiffin might be in trouble with the way the season has fallen apart down the stretch, but Haden has publicly announced Kiffin will be back next season.
However, the leash is likely short and Kiffin will need to turn things around next season. Haden has said that the program needs to “win the right way” and won’t stand for another year fueled by hype that sputters down the stretch ending in another disappointment for a proud program.