When USC athletic director Pat Haden fired former head coach Lane Kiffin after the Trojans' 62-41 road loss to Arizona State, the football program once again found itself at the forefront of media attention.
That fateful morning of Sept. 28 seemed to shroud USC in two very different atmospheres. One cleared away the clouds of negativity and mediocrity to usher in the dawning of a new era while the other only further added to the turmoil of the Trojan football program.
Midseason firings in college football are relatively uncommon due to the fact that they are perceived to do more harm than good.
After five weeks at the helm, Ed Orgeron has disproven that notion and shown that he can motivate this team to win in ways that Kiffin could not.
Since Orgeron began leading the Trojans, USC has gone 4-1, with its only loss coming to intersectional rival Notre Dame.
Aside from posting a perfect Pac-12 record, Coach Orgeron's team has looked better—especially the defense, which has not given up a rushing touchdown since October and is only surrendering 19.6 points a game—performed better and instilled confidence back into the fans as well as national media.
|USC Offensive Stats: Lane Kiffin vs. Ed Orgeron Through 5 Games|
|Lane Kiffin||Ed Orgeron|
|Third-Down Conversion Percentage||27.27%||40%|
ESPN announced Sunday morning that College GameDay will set up shop in front of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to be present for the increasingly exciting clash between USC and Stanford next Saturday.
Five weeks ago, this game looked to be a certain loss on the Trojans' season. Now, this tilt has been selected as the game of the week.
Even Las Vegas believes the Trojans have a chance. In the initial openings, Vegas Insider has Stanford listed as a three-point favorite over the Trojans.
When considering Oregon State was similarly listed a 3.5-point favorite over the Trojans, who then took Corvallis by storm and beat the Beavers 31-14, USC fans have reason to believe an upset is possible.
So what has contributed to the Trojans' newfound success?
The obvious thing to say is the departure of Coach Kiffin. And each time Coach Orgeron and offensive coordinator Clay Helton lead the Trojans to victory, it seems to further reinforce the idea that Haden made the right decision in cutting Kiffin loose.
It's not just that USC has won its past three games, it's how the Trojans have won them.
Under Kiffin, the Trojans struggled when losing and couldn't handle when teams pushed back against them. USC was 0-4 last season when trailing at the half. The Trojans never came back to win—not once. The other two losses—against Stanford and Arizona—came because USC could not hold off late offensive bursts from each team.
Even this season, USC looked absolutely listless in its losses to Washington State and Arizona State. His deadpan, nonchalant demeanor clearly could not inspire his team to push through it and win.
With Coach Orgeron, however, things have happened differently.
Sure, he hasn't been in that exact same position yet, but at Oregon State and Cal, USC saw both teams push back and try to compete with the Trojans.
In Corvallis, USC withstood two quick touchdowns from the Beavers that brought the score to 21-14 and still went on to win 31-14. At Cal, things started similarly: USC went up 21-0 only to see the Bears score on back-to-back possessions. Instead of faltering, though, the Trojans scored five unanswered touchdowns.
Unlike Kiffin, Orgeron most certainly has that fire to motivate the team to power through adversity. So far, it seems to be working.
With each win and impressive performance, Coach Orgeron seems more and more poised to be a candidate for USC's vacant head coaching position. If USC beats Stanford on Saturday, expect the cheers from those in his corner to reach deafening levels.