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The play calling by Kiffin was peculiar at times
Here's a startling tidbit from Arash Markazi for Southern Cal fans: USC became the first school since Ole Miss in 1964 to start the season as the No. 1 team in the AP Poll and completely fall out of the rankings by the end of the season.
Also according to Markazi, if Southern Cal loses to Notre Dame this weekend it'd be the first time in 17 years that the Trojans have lost to both the Bruins and the Fighting Irish in the same season. Lane Kiffin would also be the first Trojans coach since Paul Hackett to have at least five losses in two of his first three seasons on the job.
Ultimately, everything rests at the feet of the beleaguered Kiffin.
The play-calling against UCLA was pretty peculiar at times. Running back Curtis McNeal was enjoying lots of success running the football, but Kiffin preferred to throw the football a good majority of time—even on running situations. Abandoning the run for a good portion of the game put even more pressure on Matt Barkley.
Defensively, the team had problems adjusting to UCLA's tempo.
The Bruins converted on third-and-long on multiple occasions. The Trojans defense seemingly could never get a big stop when it needed one.
In addition, Southern Cal came out flat to begin the game and were down to UCLA in the first half by a a score of 24-0. There's no way a team should come out flat in a rivalry game with such magnitude and importance.
That also rests on Kiffin.
It's understandable that Kiffin is facing some pretty tough challenges. Southern Cal doesn't have much depth—which obviously is in correlation with the NCAA penalties and scholarship restrictions.
Still, his stoic and sometimes surly disposition has ruffled the feathers of the fanbase and has created a firestorm regarding his ability to lead this program.
It'd also be important to mention that UCLA is currently on a big-time upswing and can't be taken for granted anymore. The rivalry is now a rivalry again, and the Trojans will be facing scholarship restrictions for a few more years.
Coaching decisions need to be addressed on both sides of the ball. That could eventually mean the release of defensive coordinator (and Kiffin's father) Monte Kiffin.
Athletic Director Pat Haden did announce that Kiffin will return next season. However, the embattled coach has to right the ship and get things going in the right direction if he wants to stay on long term.
Next season, Kiffin will be losing Matt Barkley, T.J. McDonald, Khaled Holmes, Curtis McNeal, Wes Horton, Jawanza Starling and quite possibly Nickell Robey and Robert Woods (should the duo opt to declare early for the NFL draft).
With those players leaving, things won't be any easier next year.