5. Utah Utes
Who will be the 4th best team in the Pac-12 South?
Answer: The USC Trojans
@ Arizona State
@ Notre Dame
@ Oregon State
Predicted Record: 7-5
Last year and with the return of Matt Barkley, talk of a National Championship dominated the summer, and some went as far as rendering a ticket to New Orleans for the Trojans as good as automatic. Under Lane Kiffin however, USC miserably failed expectations, losing five of their final six games to go 7-6 overall.
As always and despite last season’s disappointment, the national hype this year for the USC Trojans is strong once again, many predicting the past-time powerhouse will push people around, finish first or second in the Pac-12 South and play in a respectable bowl game, if not the Rose. Like last season, many analysts refuse to believe this traditional juggernaut has taken a few steps backward and are using success in the past to justify favorable predictions now.
The Trojans certainly have some tools for success. USC’s entire offensive line is back and so is Silas Redd, the team’s leading rusher last season. They also return the Conference’s best receiver in Marqise Lee. However, what many analysts forget is that Lee will need someone who can throw it to him. With Barkley–who broke all of the Trojan’s career passing records–off to the NFL, that leaves Max Wittek, who is no Barkley by any means. In the few games Wittek played in last year when Barkley was injured, Wittek was in no way impressive, having a quarterback efficiency of 99%, completing only 52% of his passes and throwing 5 interceptions to 3 touchdowns with one of the best receiving duos in the country (Lee and Robert Woods). With Woods now gone, defenses will be able to spend more resources to ensure Lee is covered.
Things on defense will be interesting as well. Many veterans return and USC’s frontline (for reference, see Morgan Breslin and Leonard Williams) will be a nightmare for offenses everywhere. But the Trojans secondary is thin, and with the departure of last season’s defensive coordinator (Monte Kiffin, Lane Kiffin’s father), the question will become how well their defensive backs will handle the passing game and how quickly the defense can learn Clancy Pendergast’s 5-2 scheme.
At the end of the day, however, the bottom line is Lane Kiffin does not have what it takes to utilize some of the best talent in the country to its highest potential. Simply put, Kiffin is not a good coach. How do I know this? When it takes breaking the rules and bush league tactics–such as switching players’ jersey numbers in the middle of games and deflating the other teams’ game balls–to try and succeed, and you still can’t succeed with one of the most talented offenses in the country, you are not a good football coach. After another underperforming season, Kiffin will be fired.