It Could Get Worse For USC, Kiffin
By Mitch Chortkoff
The bad news for USC football fans is the Trojans’ slow start to the current season, which includes a home loss Saturday to Washington State Saturday.
The worse news is the surprising strength of the Pac-12 Conference.
Stanford beat Oregon last season and then Oregon coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL. In some pre-season forecasts Stanford ranked at the top nationally along with Alabama, the national champion the last two years.
But Oregon looked positively sensational in its 59-10 victory last Saturday at Virginia. Oregon now ranks No. 2 nationally and Stanford is No. 5.
USC not only has sacrificed its dominance of West Coast football it seems inferior to both Oregon and Stanford and perhaps UCLA. Then there are other conference teams who seem about equal to USC (or better), including California.
The Coliseum crowd booed USC in its home opener and Coach Lane Kiffin said he understood because Trojan fans expect better than what they saw.
The next move is up to athletic Director Pat Haden.
This is Kiffin’s fourth season and generally that’s enough time for a new head coach to prove himself.
So does Haden bring him back next season?
Before this season began Haden said he is 100 percent behind Kiffin. His purpose was to deflect speculation that a change might be coming.
The trouble was that a year ago Haden said he was 150 percent behind Kiffin. Is he less confident in the coach now?
Personally, I have experienced a major change in USC’s ranking in town with the media, an important element in a school’s clout.
Kiffin is not popular with the press. He has closed practices, something the great Trojan coaches of the past didn’t do.
Besides being an outstanding coach Pete Carroll was personable. It was a pleasure for me to attend his weekly media sessions, which I did on Tuesdays for several years.
He answered questions. No subject was out of bounds. Before he spoke the coach of that week’s opponent spoke to us via telephone.
Of course, the Trojans’ tradition goes back to John McKay and others. USC football was truly an institution on the local sports scene.
Kiffin simply doesn’t fit the Trojans’ tradition. He could do things his way if his team was winning, but since it is off to a terrible start he has little support, and eventually Haden will have to see it that way.
Some Trojan supporters are talking about a 10-2 season, which wouldn’t be bad. After all, USC is only 1-1 so far.
But neither quarterback candidate has emerged so far. I think the No. 3 guy, Max Browne, has the best potential. He’s 6-foot-5 with a powerhouse arm. But Browne was dropped from the competition before the first game, indicating he isn’t ready.
Marquis Lee is the Trojans’ best receiver but he’s averaging just eight yards per catch, about half as many as last season when Matt Barkley was throwing the passes.
USC ranks 112th in the nation in passing yardage.
Expect the booing to continue until the Trojans begin looking like a Trojan team.
When will that be? I don’t know. Nobody knows.