Back when USC was 1-3, it was pointed out the teams the Trojans played were 13-2 overall. So let’s look at the final four teams on the schedule: Oregon, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame. They are a combined 13-13. Eliminate Washington and it’s a 7-13 record.
Increasingly, the UCLA game looks like a trap game. If USC wins, it might be considered a non event with UCLA’s struggles. But a loss would be a catastrophe from a fans’ perspective.
I mentioned yesterday how bad the Pac-12’s marquee teams are this season. Does the Pac-12 have any good nonconference victories yet? This is where the SEC usually gets bashed for its weak nonconference schedule. But Alabama beat USC and Texas A&M beat UCLA, so there’s two victories.
How many games can USC afford to lose the rest of the season and still allow the fans feel-good about things? That’s a question I wrote about in this analysis.
Excerpt: Now that Clay Helton has his head above .500, the stakes are clear: USC must beat California, Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame for any goodwill to exist at the end of the season. Only a loss to Washington in Seattle will be tolerated.
Why? Because USC cannot be complimented for beating up on a weak Pacific-12 Conference or self-destructing the first month of the season. Some fans argued USC turned a corner after it beat Arizona. Since when does simply doing your job merit a pat on the back?
By the way, does a loss to UCLA ruin everything with the Bruins in full meltdown?
USC, Pac-12 and West Coast fans love to complain (often rightly) about an SEC bias that exists nationally. But when were the SEC’s marquee teams as bad as the Pac-12’s this season? This is where some argue Pac-12 offenses are tougher to defend. Last weekend, Utah and Oregon combined for 142 yards passing.
When JuJu Smith-Schuster got an unsporsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting against Arizona, it make me think back to the reaction Steve Sarkisian had last season when Isaiah Langley had an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Here was Clay Helton’s reaction to Smith-Schuster:
“Coach Helton pulled me out and said I was a better person than that,” Smith-Schuster said. “He’s right.”
USC looks poised for a strong finish. The mystery of 2016 will be how a USC team with 14 starters back could open the season so poorly.
“We were still finding ourselves back then,” safety Chris Hawkins said.
One excuse is that this is Clay Helton’s first season. That forgets Helton coaching nine games last season. A rocky transition was not justified. Everyone is losing to Alabama. The loss to Stanford, with six false starts by the offensive line, haunts the Trojans. Then came the three fumbles at Utah.
USC’s troubles were all self-inflicted, such as deciding to start the season with Max Browne over Sam Darnold at quarterback.