USC Football: Why Cody Kessler Is Trojans' MVP for 2013
In a season where USC has experienced more ups and downs than the Empire State building's busiest elevator, the Trojans finds themselves definitely on the rise.
Now 8-3 and ranked 23rd in the AP poll after their huge win over Stanford Saturday evening, the men of Troy likely couldn't have seen this coming just a few short weeks ago.
And while most people would say the Trojans fortunes began to rise with the dismissal of former head man Lane Kiffin, there is another player whose success coincides closely with that of his team.
It wasn't so long ago that quarterback Cody Kessler was the object of fans ire and rightfully so as the redshirt sophomore struggled mightily early on.
However, those days appear to be behind him and it comes as no surprise that as Kessler has improved, so have the Trojans.
This slideshow will look at some of the reasons why young Cody has been USC's most valuable player thus far in 2013.
While other Trojans have made considerable contributions, it is Kessler who has been instrumental in getting USC to where they are now.
Kessler Has Emerged as the Unquestioned Leader on Offense
It wasn't so long ago that some people—myself included—questioned Cody Kessler's ability to lead USC's offense.
Those days appear to be over.
Kessler has now emerged as a confident leader for the Cardinal and Gold, and with each passing game, he has grown in that role.
The shaky and rattled quarterback that stumbled and bumbled against Washington State in game two of the season has been replaced by the cool, confident general who calmly stepped up to complete a huge fourth down pass on that winning drive Saturday night against the Cardinal.
It is his leadership that has helped Kessler become the MVP of the resurgent Trojans.
Kessler's Growth Is Tangible
Leadership—though unquestionably important—is a somewhat nebulous concept and one not given to measurable results.
Not so with production on the field of play.
Early in the season, the only place you would find Kessler on the stat sheet is at the bottom of whatever statistic list you were looking up.
Fast forward a few short weeks and the changes are startling—and measurable.
A look at passing efficiency finds Kessler now ranked 31st in the nation and ahead of celebrated signal callers such as Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas and Michigan's Devin Gardner.
Though he still has a way to go to reach the summit, Kessler's rise statistically has been nothing short of meteoric.
Kessler Has Finally Won the "Big One"
One of the knocks on Cody Kessler since he took over the starting quarterback job was the fact that he couldn't deliver for USC when they needed him most.
Specifically, the loss to Washington State where an errant Kessler pass led to the Cougars only touchdown and his inability to rally the Trojans at Notre Dame both weighed heavily on those who followed the men of Troy.
Then, Saturday happened, and young Cody found a way to complete a fourth down pass on USC's last drive, which led to Andre Heidari's field goal and a magical win over the No. 5 ranked Cardinal.
Now Kessler has his signature win and USC is relevant again.
Sounds like MVP stuff to me.
As Time Goes by Kessler Keeps Getting Better
Kessler's statistics in 2013 aren't particularly impressive.
With 178 completions in 275 attempts (64.7 percent) for 2265 yards, a person familiar with the sport would likely nod and say, "pretty good but nothing special."
Then they would see the 13 touchdowns and six interceptions and that notion of "average" would be reinforced.
Ahh, but if you look a bit closer, you would see a different picture.
That perusal would show you a quarterback whose improvement has coincided with USC's resurgence.
In fact, since the Trojans' humiliating loss at Arizona State, Kessler has been excellent.
In the six games post-Arizona State, Kessler has completed 115 passes in 176 attempts and he has tossed seven touchdowns against only two picks.
Is it just coincidence that an improved Kessler has resulted in USC going 5-1 since ASU?
I think not.
In 2013, there are many guys you could argue deserve consideration for most valuable player.
On defense, claims for the honor could go to tackle Leonard Williams, outside linebacker Devon Kennard, linebacker Hayes Pullard or cornerback/safety Josh Shaw.
All worthy contenders to be sure.
Or how about running backs Tre Madden and Buck Allen? Maybe wide receiver Nelson Agholor?
Excellent players, no doubt about it.
But for my money, I'll take the "too short" gun-slinger from Centennial High School in Bakersfield.
The guy that not so long ago I wanted to replace with his backup, Max Wittek.
How do I spell Cody Kessler?