07 October 2007

The Fall of Troy

(From BCS Guru)

USC was living on borrowed time, make no mistake. That seemingly impressive victory over Nebraska was but a mirage because now we know the 'Huskers really weren't any good. The Trojans barely got by Washington, a team manhandled in the second half by Ohio State. And finally, the house came crashing down Saturday night against Stanford.

From 2002-2006, USC won more games and had a better winning percentage than anyone in college football. But Saturday night's loss likely marked the end of USC's dominance, a five-year period that produced two national titles, nearly a third, and no lower than No. 4 at the end of each season.

John David Booty will get a lot of the blame. It's now sufficiently proven that he wasn't a worthy successor to Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. His off games resulted in Trojan losses. His most awful game came Saturday night, and gave us the upset of the season. (Yes, Michigan, you're off the hook for now -- and you can thank one of your own, Jim Harbaugh).

But the unraveling of the Trojan Empire actually began following the 2004 season, when offensive coordinator Norm Chow bolted for the Tennessee Titans. The 2005 USC team made it to the national title game, but a couple of play-calling mistakes, particularly the fourth-and-2 call with two minutes left in the game, cost the Trojans their third successive national title.

In 2006, the USC offense, after the losses of Leinart and star running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White, became more stale. In the shocking loss to UCLA, the Trojans were inexplicably impotent against a very average defense, producing only one touchdown. That loss prevented USC from appearing in its third straight BCS title game.

In the offseason, the offensive brain drain continued. Lane Kiffin, who had shared play-calling duties with Steve Sarkisian, left to become the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Now it appears that he is going to be missed, as Chow was.

(Say this about Al Davis: He's pretty damn good when it comes to recognizing young coaching talent -- John Madden, Tom Flores, Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, and now Kiffin, who has the Raiders tied for first in the AFC West. Al's problems came when he hired old retread yes-men like Mike White, Joe Bugel, Norv Turner and Art Shell the second time.)

But back to USC. Saturday night's loss was further illustration that this program, once the gold standard, has slipped. And much of it has to do with the death of creativity on offense. I had predicted that the Trojans wouldn't go undefeated this season, and now I will add that this won't be their only loss of the year.

The Pac-10 will have a new champion in 2007. The USC Dynasty is over.


Anonymous said...

A little bit of off balance analysis in claiming that the brain drain is behind the "fall" of Troy.

Losing Norm Chow hurt, no doubt, perhaps as much in how he acted as mentor as his actual Xs & Os ability. That being said, are you really watching these games USC is playing and thinking that the play calling is worse than last year? Get real.

Sarkisian was literally offered the Raiders job and refused it before Al Davis offered it to Lane Kiffin. There wasn't a USC fan who wasn't happy to see that turn of events. The play calling isn't as genius as when Chow was doing the work, but let's not pretend losing Lane Kiffin hurt this Trojan team. Sarkisian being in full control has had this offense show significant more innovation than last year.

The real problem with this team is a)the under performance of the talent out on the field and b)the injuries. Never has a QB gotten so many accolades with so poor performance. Never have so many successful high school receivers proved so inept on a single field. Rarely has a national powerhouse faced so many key injuries over a two year span.

Second, this team beat some fine talent last year and followed that with some inexplicable let downs. To say that Cal or Oregon is the cream of the crop and a shoe in for the PAC 10 title this year, without them proving they can beat USC is foolish. The point is, judging USC on this Stanford performance is ridiculous. This team has proven schizophrenic the past two seasons and it is just as likely they'll go up and to Auzten and Cal stadium and trounce the real competition as it is that they'll get rolled by the Ducks or Bears.

The gap is certainly closing in terms of talent in the PAC 10, but USC could still very easily win the PAC 10. That's the safe money actually.

Washed-up 4th grader said...

So you're implying, then, that the USC dynasty lasted only 2-maybe 3 years? And when Norm Chow left, it was over? To judge the entire 2005 USC team by one risky call in the championship game is ridiculous.

However, you are right that Sarkisian needs to replaced. Why was Booty throwing 50+ passes if Booty was struggling? I couldn't stand his play calling last year and this game proved he's not getting any better. Oh if they only had Crowton -this team would win it all.

This is the reason your "Fall of Troy" is premature. I know it has a dramatic ring to it, but the bottom line is until another team wins the PAC10, Troy is still in reign. So we've established why USC lost -what about the amazing defense and massive core of talented RBs and WRs? USC gained more than 350 yards over UDUBB -yet that game was close. They also gained 240 yrds more than Stanford, yet they lost. The reason: turnovers. This doesn't mean the talent isn't there and the program is going down the shoots. This assumption is absurd and illogical.

In fact, if USC wins out -a big "if" as the PAC10 is strong this year -they will win the PAC10 and either go to the Rose bowl or even the NC. It's almost better that they lose to a team like Stanford than Cal -since Stanford won't have the chance of tying them at the top of the conference at the end of the year..but if they win out, they'll have the advantage over CAL/ Arizona State.

The talent gap in the PAC10 is more narrow for sure -but so is college football in general.

Also, you're assuming that this loss means that USC will all of a sudden lose all talent in the next coming years. When they get another very good/great QB, they'll win the NC...they've estabished their name and given it's the most high profile school by far, the talent will keep on coming. I'm upset they lost -but hey, it makes it more interesting.

Also, Michigan, ranked 5th in the country, losing to ANY AA team is a worse upset. But the biggest and most embarrassing loss of the year happened across town at the Rose Bowl last night. USC will absolutely pummel Notre Dame.

Anonymous said...

Funny and absurd in it's premises. Until USC doesn't go to a BCS bowl, Troy reigneth.

Henry Gomez said...

Honestly Sam I think the entire dynasty was a mirage. A mirage propped up by a "split" title they didn't deserve and a bunch of wins in a conference that has proven time and again that it does not care about an entire half of the game, the defensive half. USC was a good team. Not a team for the ages.

Anonymous said...

I believe Al Davis also hired Art Shell, who then hired some guy running a bed and breakfast. And what kind of owner is he if he can't even keep good coaches? Well...he's probably a meddler. The only reason Kiffin or Sark were considered is because no one wanted that job...thanks to Al. The Raider talent wasn't necessarily bad...but cloud over that team was rotten...and with that former coaching staff...almost anything would've done better. You are right about Norm Chow being the difference maker for SC. Apparently Pete's meddling is finely his undoing (i.e. chasing Norm out of town).

scott said...

Norm was on his way out anyway -he was the best O coordinator in CF at the time. But to say he was the sole reason for USC's success is absurd.

USC was never a dynasty? that cracks me up. Seeing as they destoyed any team they faced in a bowl -other than the great Texas game, which let's be honest, they had it won. Norm Chow would have gone for it on 4th down -they had that 4th down mentality starting 2 years before...because they usually got it. They also destroyed any non-conference team they played. How bout that Oklhoma game for the NC? That's the definition of a "spanking."

Did somoene say they didn't deserve half the title in 2004? Interesting, considering the humans voted in a landslide for them -and it was the computers who went with LSU. Then they ripped Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Yeah I think we know which team didn't deserve half the title that year.

You can get carried away with "mirages" and all these presupposing...but the fact is the dynasty is still alive. Expect a couple more NCs in the next 4 years. If they have a better QB, they beat UCLA last year and win the NC. And they would have gone to the NC this year...maybe they still will.

I guess the SEC and BIG10 don't play the defensive half either, considering the CAL and Michigan games(Oregon absolutely dismantled UM) and the last 2 times USC played Arkansas and the last 2 times they played Michigan. Yeah, definitely a mirage.

sexy said...