Lane Kiffin Fallout: Are the Trojans Done as a National Power?

Jon Sarver@ IMarch 10, 2010

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Nick Saban (L) of the Alabama Crimson Tide shakes hands with head coach Lane Kiffin (R) of the Tennessee Volunteers after the Crimson Tide's 12-10 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 24, 2009 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As they say in baseball at this time of year, "It's early!!"  So, with this in mind  I decided to resurface after several weeks of college football hibernation and take a look back at 2009 and project to 2010.

Okay, for USC football it's even earlier; however, with USC, football talk is always relevant, so let's dive into it!  It's true that there was some major slippage in the USC football program in 2009;  I was able to attend several home games and I was shocked at the lack of passion the Trojans played with. 

It just didn't seem like a Pete Carroll team in defensive preparedness or offensive execution.  However, all Trojan fans were willing to give Pete Carroll a pass, though many of us were perplexed at his surprise visit to ABC's college football.  I thought at the time, "This is weird, Pete is usually on the recruiting trail!"

Little did we know that Pete Carroll was on his way out of Trojan lore and moving to the Pacific Southwest to trade recruiting stories with his buddy Steve Sarkisian. 

Even more surprising was Mike Garrett's surprising choice of Lane Kiffin (choice number five!) as the Trojans head coach.  My first impression of the choice was probably the same as yours.  What?  "Oh, he's bringing in his father and Ed Orgeron and we really hit the jackpot if he brings Norm Chow."    

Alas, two out of three is not bad. Unfortunately for Chow, he seems to think UCLA has better offensive potential than USC, and he decided to stay with the Bruins.  I say unfortunately because UCLA did not seem to answer the key recruiting questions on offense that fit with Chow's philosophy.  However, USC's ability to get key Norm Chow offensive players was truly impressive indeed!

As the horror of Kiffin's betrayal of Tennessee's football program began to resonate and Vol fan's lit up the blogs with vitriol about Kiffin's character (they were trying to name a sewage plant after the dearly departed) a strange thing happened.  Kiffin went underground and worked on recruiting  (12 year olds?) and not slamming loud mouth UCLA coaches. 

Memo to Kiffin:  Do not get into mudslinging with Mr. ethics, Rick Neuheisel.  He will bury himself this month in the NCAA basketball pool.  Oh yes, please don't recruit junior high students either.  We know that was a publicity stunt, and USC does not need that kind of publicity.

I was one of the unfortunate ones to attend Paul Hackett's last game as USC head coach.  It was tough to watch Notre Dame  handle USC as they annually did during those times.  After a 37-35 record as USC coach, there was nowhere to go but up.

Unfortunately I attended Pete Caroll's last Colesium game too.  The listless performance by the Trojans was all too familiar, though a decade apart.  None of us had any idea that the famous Emerald Bowl in the Bay Area would be his last game as USC coach (UCLA would have been thrilled to haul that trophy around Pauley too.  USC has put it in a closet where it belongs.  Honestly, could you see Caroll walking around Gaylen Center with the Emerald Bowl 6th place trophy?).

Certainly Pete Carroll (97-19) left the house in immensely better shape than Hackett and the whole Kiffin package (Monte and Ed along with several other very experienced college coaches) gives us hope that the dominance USC fans expect will continue. 

However, it is important to note that each time the Trojans dominated college football, they dominated Southern California recruiting.  There is clear evidence from the 2009 class that UCLA has begun to turn the tide in L.A.

So, Trojan fan beware...the Bruins may not be in ruins as we think...

Like it or not Trojan fans, Neuweisel is making a dent in Southern California for UCLA.  Gee, they do live in Westwood, so it is about time, eh?

But just as importantly, the verdict is not in because when was the last time you saw a rookie replace a legend and still pull out a No. 1 class (Rivals)? the answer to that, so let's give the whole L.A. thing another two years before we declare USC's dominance a thing of the past.

In my view Ed Orgeron and Monte Kiffin bring intangibles to the USC program that mitigates the concern we all have about his son, Night Train Lane.  Monte brings a defensive genius that will continue to bring highly placed defensive recruits into the high profile L.A. area for years to come.

Ed Orgeron brings a toughness, particularly to the defensive line that was simply missing last year.  They will be bigger, stronger and a year older so expect great things from the defense and a return to Trojan dominance.

The offense led by Matt Barkley and several key five star 2009 recruits should stretch the defense leaving running room for former five star Marc Tyler who has a lot to prove. 

Lane Kiffin brings with him the glory years philosophy of USC football under Pete Carroll, so look for the Trojans to work the field more like 2003-2005 than 2008-2009.  If that happens with a maturing defense and a quarterback who will not be making green freshman mistakes, you can look for a solid Trojan return to glory.

I look for the Trojans to start 5-0 before the pay back game at Stanford.  I believe that a more mature Matt Barkley will power USC past the Cardinal and then pay back Oregon as well. 

We should know more about USC's ability at that time to maintain dominance against ASU and take it on the road against Arizona and Oregon State.

Look for the Trojans to take two out of three against those teams and head into the final two games against Notre Dame and UCLA 10-1. 

As for UCLA and Notre Dame, the jury is out.  The Irish should be much better under Brian Kelly though they will be young on offense.  However, the great plus (for the once Fighting Irish) is that Charlie Weiss will be displaying his bravado in a small mid western market.  Could they upset USC at the Colesium?

As for the Bruins...well, UCLA should finally have a return to some glory after that stirring 2009 EagleBank Bowl victory that saw Neuheisel parading the winning trophy around Pauley Pavilion during another UCLA basketball loss. 

The UCLA game is a tossup now, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Trojans head into a BCS bowl at 11-2 or even 12-1.

If they are 12-1, look for Ed Orgeron to be in his third USC National Championship game in a row.  If that happens, who knows?

We will know more in the fall, however, I think it is safe to say that USC's glory days are in the very least, still under debate.  Stay tuned!

(About the writer: Jon Sarver is the co-founder of , a site that is committed to Dumping the BCS and demanding a college football playoff.  Check it out if you are tired of the current BCS system and want a change now!)


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