Quick Summary of the Season
Although USC’s season has not started as bad as it could have (UCLA 0-4), this has definitely been a forgettable start (3-2). After winning unimpressively against UNLV, USC has proceeded to score three points against Stanford and run for negative five yards against Texas. Furthermore, neither Texas nor Stanford has looked particularly good. USC bounced back with consecutive wins against Washington State and Arizona, but unimpressively in each. Both games could have gone either way, as a missed extra point and a blocked field goal in the two games was the primary reason USC survived.
Summary of Helton at USC
After going 5-3 as the interim head coach in 2015, Clay Helton was named permanent head coach. He followed that year up by going 10-3 and winning the Rose Bowl, which seems impressive. But Helton was criticized for starting quarterback Max Browne for the first three games of the season, leading to a 1-2 start. Considering the amount of talent the 2016 team had, a playoff should have been the bare minimum. That team was headlined by two-way player and first round pick Adoree Jackson, second round running back Ronald Jones II, second rounder and break out NFL star wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, second round linebacker Uchenna Nwosu, and of course the number three pick, quarterback Sam Darnold. After starting 2017 ranked number four in preseason polls, USC went an underwhelming 11-3 considering their schedule. They also lost to Notre Dame 49-14 and Ohio State 24-7. Helton has not yet shown that he can take USC to the next level to compete for national titles.
What is USC’s Worst Case Scenario for the Rest of 2018
The worst-case scenario for USC’s 2018 season is not to lose the rest of their games and finish 3-9. As humiliating as that would be, Helton would have been fired mid-season, and anyway, this seems impossible with UCLA still on the schedule. The worst-case scenario is for USC to finish 9-5, a very likely scenario that might force Athletic Director Lynn Swann to not make needed staff changes.
USC’s remaining schedule consists of Colorado, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, and Notre Dame. All these games seem winnable except Notre Dame, with Arizona State and Utah on the road being tossups. If USC were to beat every team except Notre Dame and either Arizona State or Utah, they would be 8-4, 7-2 in the PAC-12. With the current struggles of the PAC-12 South, this could easily put USC in the PAC-12 title game, where they would probably lose to Washington. Follow that up with an Alamo Bowl win against an average team and USC would finish the season 9-5. It will be hard to fire a coach that made it to their conference title game, won a bowl game, and lost four games against ranked opponents (Stanford, Texas, Notre Dame, and the PAC-12 North Champion).
Helton still has time to prove that he is a National Title caliber coach. Every part of the team has shown flashes of an elite team. Against Washington State, the passing game was unstoppable. Against Arizona, the run game was strong. Against Stanford, the defense played well. In the last two weeks, the special teams have stepped up. It’s not too late for it all to come together and for USC to still win the PAC-12 and be a top 10 team. But if things stay the way they are, a 9-4 or 9-5 finish, also known as the “Cody Kessler special” (27 wins in three seasons), seems likely.
What would you rather see have happen?
This poll is closed
USC wins 6 to 8 games.
USC wins 9 or 10 games.