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IMHO Sunday: The aftermath

In my humble opinion, cardinal and gold thoughts on what I see, what I hear, and what I think from Los Angeles.

* It’s inconceivable to me that USC athletic director Mike Bohn doesn’t deep down see the writing on the wall when it comes to the future of the Trojans football program.

Trojans fans are wondering what USC athletic director Mike Bohn (photo above) must be thinking regarding the future of Trojans football under Clay Helton. The Trojans fell short – again – of winning the Pac-12 Conference title.

* I find it hard to fathom with its legendary football past, the Trojans administration would accept USC’s football current state of affairs – we’re talking USC football here – as an acceptable level of play. For the present and the future, maybe times have changed, but I hope not and so does college football.

* Don’t even start with me that the Trojans were undefeated, won the Pac-12 South Division, and were No. 13 in the country prior to the Pac-12 Championship Game, and that marks a successful season. Blah, blah, blah. With that schedule, against those teams, with that talent advantage? By not winning the conference title, the season was, IMHO, an inexcusable failure.

Once again, a Pac-12 championship has alluded the Trojans. During Clay Helton’s five seasons, the Trojans have captured just one Pac-12 Conference Championship Trophy (photo above by John McGillen).

* On the positive side, give credit to Clay Helton, his players, and the USC administration for opting out of any bowl game for this season. After reading about UCLA players rejecting playing in a bowl game and for all the right reasons, USC did the right thing, as well.

* Rumors are swirling that Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis, who hurt his shoulder at the end of the Oregon game on Friday night, would have been out of any bowl game. There were other Trojans, as well, that would not have played due to injury.

Although the Trojans have elected not to play in a bowl game this season, quarterback Kedon Slovis (photo above) was probably out of any bowl game anyway due to a shoulder injury suffered at the end of the Oregon game. (photo above by John McGillen)

* If the Trojans had played in a bowl game and had got beaten, would that have changed the job status of Clay Helton? I doubt it.   

* No question in my eyes, the entire Pac-12 will be much better next season, and by having a 9-1 record in Pac-12 title games, the strength of the North Division is much better than the South.  

* Since when do you get to the point that signing a strong recruiting class gives the head coach job security? I always thought at USC it’s about production on the field that coincides with championships. Even Clay Helton has also stated as such.   

* Clay Helton is sounding more and more like former USC head coach Paul Hackett before Hackett got fired. The same lines of “we’re young, we’re just a step away, we’re right there, the players play so hard,” etc.

Trojans media and fans are starting to draw comparisons of quotes between former fired Trojans head coach Paul Hackett (photo above) and current Trojans head coach Clay Helton. (photo by cbsnew.com)

* A total of 98 yards in penalties by the Trojans against Oregon isn’t justified by saying the kids played so hard and with so much emotion. Yes, they did play hard, but that’s no excuse for dumb and needless flags.

* A sign of a good football coach is clock management and use of timeouts.   

* When it comes to winning a conference title, the Trojans will never have another cream puff schedule like 2020.

* I shudder to think what the Trojans record in 2020 would have been had the original schedule, which included Alabama, Notre Dame, at Oregon, and Washington, been played. A losing record wouldn’t have been out of the question.

How would the Trojans have fared if they had opened this season – sans COVID – with No. 1 Alabama (photo above) and closed with Notre Dame?

* Who will be in charge come spring of addressing the lack of discipline that leads to penalties? Clay Helton? Oh, right, that’s been tried before.

* Despite playing in Los Angeles, Oregon played as though no one was in the stands for a Trojans’ home field advantage. Would fans in the stands made a difference on Friday night?

* BTW, what does Clay Helton really think about his current running attack after saying early in his tenure that he wanted a physical, pounding running game? This is what happens when you sell your soul and future to a new offensive – the Air Raid – you know little about, is counter to your core beliefs, and hir an offensive coordinator you don’t know well enough.

Whatever happened to the storied USC running game (photo above), which was ranked last in the Pac-12 in 2020. (photo by John McGillen)

From the press box…

* The Trojans defense probably deserved more credit than it received after holding the Oregon offense, which didn’t have starting running back CJ Verdell available, to 243 total yards and four TDs.

The Trojans defense (photo above) held the Oregon offense to 243 total yards and probably deserved more credit. (photo by John McGillen)

* The Oregon team that beat the Trojans for the Pac-12 title was probably the weakest Ducks team we will see in the foreseeable future.

* Clay Helton should consider writing a book: “My greatest positive spins after losses.”

* I’d be be surprised if Trojans offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is the still Clay Helton’s offensive coordinator in 2022. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harrell is not with the Trojans in 2021.

Will USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell (photo above) and his Air Raid offense still be at USC in 2022?

* I’d be shocked if the Trojans ran a misdirection running play during this Air Raid era.

* I’d be shocked if the Trojans ever convert a third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 during the Air Raid era.

* Despite the final score, the Trojans seemed a lot further behind against Oregon than the scoreboard was showing during the course of the game.

* In case you didn’t notice, the Trojans didn’t score again in the third quarter of a game. Only against UCLA has the Men of Troy scored a TD in the third stanza. That’s 5 third quarters and one TD to show for it.

The USC offense (photo above) did not score a third quarter touchdown on Friday night against Oregon. The only third quarter TD all season came against UCLA. (photo by Dennis Hammond/Long Photography)

* I won’t be shocked if defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu, safeties Talanoa Hufanga and Isaiah Pola-Mao, offensive tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns all head for the NFL, although the NCAA said this season would not count in terms of eligibility.

* It’s disconcerting when pondering what other Trojans might turn pro or enter the Transfer Portal.

The post-game show…

* Oregon would have beaten Washington if they had played.

* I expect that there will be limited Coliseum attendance in 2021, but don’t hold me to it.

Will USC fans be allowed back into the Coliseum (photo above) for the 2021 season?

* The Trojans wouldn’t dare increase football season ticket prices for 2021 after winning the Pac-12 South Division, would they?

I won’t be shocked if the Trojans raise Trojans Athletic Fund dues in 2021. 

* I expect Alabama will win the CFP National Championship. Shocking, I know.

* Aren’t you glad that the Trojans didn’t play Alabama to start the 2020 season? That would have been ugly at the highest level.

* With Notre Dame getting ripped by Clemson, 34-10, in the ACC title game, possibly eliminating the Irish from the CFP, the Trojans playing ND in the Coliseum in November would not have had a good outcome if the Irish needed to impress the CFP committee with an impressive win.  

It’s likely that had the Trojans lined up against Notre Dame (photo above) this past season, it probably wouldn’t have been a happy ending for the Cardinal and Gold.

The last word: In today’s USC football world, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Greg Katz

Now entering his 59th season of either writing, broadcasting, or just plain watching USC football, WeAreSC columnist Greg Katz began his affiliation with the website back in 2001, introducing his well-received O/NSO (The Obvious/The Not So Obvious) column and later adding his respected IMHO Sunday opinion and tidbits column. Greg, a former ESPN.com college football columnist covering USC, is also a member of the Football Writer's Association of America. He is also known in Southern California as a professional public address announcer, having called the the 1996 Rose Bowl Game between USC and Northwestern. Greg also holds a master's degree in athletic administration and was a former varsity high school coach of 27 years.

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