Lane Kiffin and USC Trojans Football: 1 Hurdle Cleared, 4 More to Overcome

Jeff LittleSenior Writer IOctober 26, 2011

USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin talking to QB Matt Barkley
USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin talking to QB Matt BarkleyJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Lane Kiffin’s return to USC was not a well-received move in 2010. There were literally two factions of people: those that felt the Kiffin received too much too soon and was not worthy of leading the USC Football program, and those that felt that it was great to bring a former Trojan back into the fold.

The above-mentioned factions quickly turned into people in two categories: fans or detractors. Kiffin won eight games in year one but lost to Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington and Notre Dame. NCAA sanctions, injuries and youth are all factors, but the fact remains that BCS football is a results-based business. Kiffin is in a win-now situation.

The Notre Dame game was a "move-the-needle" game for Lane Kiffin. Imagine a meter if you will, with USC fans and alumni moving the needle in said meter one way or the other. The interesting question before the Notre Dame game was if USC fans and alumni felt that Lane Kiffin was the right person for the job now and for the future of the program.

Many people responded "no" to this question. USC has a tough Pac-12 conference schedule to deal with every year. However, the fact remains that as a Trojan, you attend USC to beat Notre Dame and UCLA.

Several of Kiffin’s detractors felt that Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly was the better coach in the matchup. More detractors felt that Notre Dame, with a more senior-laden team, would beat USC because of their experience. Many will judge Lane Kiffin’s success or failure against the success of his predecessor, Pete Carroll, the same guy that several of Lane Kiffin’s detractors thought was the wrong choice at the time.

On the road as a 9.5-point underdog, USC won 30-17 in South Bend, Ind., in front of a national audience, a signature win for Lane Kiffin. USC is 6-1 on the season; more importantly, Kiffin’s record is 14-6. Several big games remain on the 2011 schedule, but the fact of the matter is that Lane Kiffin is the right person for the job.

The next challenge on the schedule for the Trojans the is No. 6 ranked Stanford Cardinal at the Coliseum as a 7.5-point underdog. In the headline matchup of Andrew Luck vs. Matt Barkley, the better QB will ultimately lead his team to victory.

Stanford is one of the most dominant teams in college football. Stanford has the second-best offense in the country. The Cardinal use a trio of versatile tight ends on offense capable of making plays in the passing game and as in-line blockers, but they control the clock and the game with their dominant running game.

The Trojans have won one of their last four games against Stanford after going 5-0 from 2002 to 2006.

The hits will keep coming for the Trojans. After the nationally televised matchup against Stanford, the Trojans face some huge challenges. They must then go against the Washington Huskies at the Coliseum on Nov. 12 (thanks to two field goals, former USC offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian is 2-0 against his former team).

Next, they will be on the road in front of 54,000 at Autzen Stadium against the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 19 (Oregon has outscored USC 100-52 in the last two years).

And finally, they will close out the season against the UCLA Bruins at the Coliseum.

Lane Kiffin and the young USC Trojans still have a lot to prove and will continue to work at the task at hand, taking it one game at a time.