USC Trojans Football: Are Lane Kiffin and the Trojans Lost in the Tall Grass?

George WrighsterGuest ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin looks on against the Colorado Buffaloes at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Who is USC? It is not the program it used to be.

The Trojans came into the 2012 college football season ranked No. 1 in the country! Expectations had not been this high since the Reggie Bush era. After coming off two seasons of postseason bowl bans, USC was supposed to be back to claim Pac-12 dominance and national prominence.

Now sitting at 6-3, and in a must-win situation every game just to make the Pac-12 title, it must feel like the sky is falling. The November 3 game versus Oregon was supposed to be a top-five showdown, with the victor playing the winner of the LSU/Alabama game in the national championship. USC showed up to the game with two losses and a head coach on the hot seat.

Just when the USC athletic department thought the black eyes would stop, it keep getting hit from every angle. Lane Kiffin inherited many of the challenges he has faced as the Trojans head coach. However, the newest Trojan bruisers are self-inflicted. Many uninformed people are crediting USC's troubles to the lack of depth due to scholarship restrictions imposed by the NCAA.

Reality is, USC signed a full recruiting class last year, plus a few extra players due to seven players who transferred for a total of 31 signees. The scholarship losses are coming but have little to do with the problems at hand now.

The fabric of tradition and dominance USC once showed over the Pac-12 is slowly coming apart at the seams. The mystique is gone and so is the respect and pride that used to cause teams to crumble from the shadow of the Coliseum. The Trojans are still a hot bed of talent for the NFL, but those numbers will dwindle over the next few years with the loss of blue-chip recruits to other schools like Oregon.

The Trojans have lost the stranglehold they had on the Pac-12 to the Ducks, who have won three-straight titles. Top recruits (i.e. Max Redfield) who wouldn't consider other options after being offered a USC scholarship are considering taking their talents to other schools. Even worse than that, the Trojans are losing their identity and pride. Part of the identity was tied to the uniform. Traditional SC uniform with white socks and black cleats with white laces. Now, they have cardinal and yellow socks and shoes. This may sound like a little thing, but after talking to many players I played with in the NFL, they agree with me. Now to the pride:

On October 20, USC played the Colorado Buffaloes, who are one of the worst teams in college football and the current Pac-12 punching bag. Kiffin and the USC staff pulled a move that can only be characterized as "bush league." Here is the quote from the LA Times article by Gary Klein:

Cody Kessler is easily identifiable in the No. 6 jersey the reserve quarterback has worn in his two seasons at USC.

So confusion reigned last week when Kessler played on special teams in the first half against Colorado—even running for an apparent two-point conversion—wearing No. 35, the same number worn by punter Kyle Negrete. In the second half, Kessler was back wearing No. 6.

When asked about the controversy after the game Kiffen said, "We're just playing within the rules of college football." This move by Kiffin is clearly against NCAA rules because the jersey change was to deceive the opponent. He is also only one of a handful of coaches who could attempt a stunt like this because nearly all teams have names on the back of their jerseys.

Next issue:

It was just announced that USC fired a student equipment manager for intentionally deflating game balls during the first half of the loss versus Oregon. When footballs are properly inflated, they are hard as rocks. A slightly under-inflated ball allows the quarterback to grip it tighter and throw it harder and farther. It also allows the receiver to grip the ball better and making it easier to catch. 

Paul Myerberg of USA Today reported:

When informed of this allegation by the Pac-12, USC investigated it immediately. The student manager confirmed that he had, without the knowledge of, or instruction from, any USC student-athlete, coach, staff member or administrator, deflated those game balls after they had been tested and approved by officials prior to the game.

Really? Are we supposed to believe an equipment manager just under-inflated balls without anyone's knowledge? Yeah, right. Quarterbacks are very particular about the balls they use, so if anything was different than how he likes it, things would have changed.

Is this what it has come to with USC?

If the Trojans are not careful, they will end up just a shadow of their former selves like Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Tennessee, Florida State and Alabama (before Saban).

Is it possible to right the ship?