What happened to USC in 2012?
Now that the Trojans were again postseason eligible, they were picked to win the national championship in the preseason. Instead, the Trojans had their worst win-loss record since 2001.
Matt Barkley returned to USC instead of entering the 2012 NFL draft, where he would have been a first-round pick. The record-breaking quarterback failed to receive enough votes for the Top 10 in the 2012 Heisman voting despite being the preseason favorite to win the award. Barkley has no regrets about his decision, which has landed him a third-string quarterback role on the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, who selected Barkley in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Everything seemed to fall apart for a program trying to get back on steady ground. USC was finally past its punishments resulting from the Pete Carroll era. Oddly enough, the Trojans played better while on probation, which included bowl bans.
Maybe it’s head coach Lane Kiffin. Kiffin has failed to win a bowl game in his four years as an FBS head coach. (Granted, his teams were not bowl eligible for two of those years). The guy even coached the Oakland Raiders, which is not a glorious position, to two seasons of failure.
Even with the recruiting penalties, USC could put together one of the most talented teams in college football. Kiffin, who coached the program through the penalties, has collected four Top-15 classes and two Top-10 classes, according to ESPNU.
Perhaps USC cracked under pressure, suggesting a lack of toughness.
In 2013, the Trojans will have new identities at quarterback and in the running game. Athlon Sports says, “It remains to be seen if [Kiffin] can produce the kind of overpowering running game featured by USC teams in the past.”
In my mind, a strong running game equates to toughness on offense.
The Trojans are no strangers to the "soft" label. After all, players like Keyshawn Johnson, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez called USC home. Also, the scandals have not helped the program appear disciplined.