USC vs. UCLA Instant Analysis

    Clay Helton got his USC team to the Pac-12 championship game with a big win over UCLA.

    November 29, 2015


    USC & D

    Follow, Contact @PeteFiutak

    How did USC turn around its season and how did it take over the South and get the job done? The run defense turned things up several notches.

    At the very least, Clay Helton proved he’ll be ready to step in for someone’s job opening after cranking up the defense over the second half of the season. Under trying circumstances, the Trojans gave up 214 yards to Notre Dame, and then they threw up a brick wall of a defense the rest of the way.

    Utah, Arizona and Colorado each finished with under 100 rushing yards, and Cal and Oregon were held in relative check. UCLA’s Paul Perkins took off for 95 yards and two touchdowns, but that was about it for a Bruin ground attack that came up with 140 yards and two scores. Josh Rosen threw two picks, Cody Kessler threw two touchdown passes, the now it’s on to play Stanford for the Pac-12 title.

    Clay’s Big Day, Part One

    E-mail Rich Cirminiello
    Follow me … @RichCirminiello

    For the second time in three years, USC is getting solid production out of its interim coach, leaving the AD to contemplate whether to stay in-house or go outside the program.

    Two years ago, Ed Orgeron went 6-2 after replacing Lane Kiffin, creating a groundswell of support from his kids. Today, it’s Clay Helton pinch-hitting for Steve Sarkisian, winning 5-of-7, with a shot to match Orgeron’s mark next Saturday versus Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. What happens if the Trojans build on today’s rout of UCLA, avenge their Week 3 loss to the Cardinal and earn a first Rose Bowl berth in seven years? Can you not higher that guy?

    Troy can get just about any head coach its serious about. It’s that appealing of a job. But the last two times it went with a flashier hire, Kiffin in 2010 and Sark in 2014, it didn’t work out. Not even close. So, maybe Helton, who’s more substance than style, will wind up being the answer for a program that’s been hunting for stability ever since Pete Carroll returned to the NFL. Maybe Haden’s next head coach is right under his nose.

    It’s been a pretty good year for interim head coaches. Illinois removed the interim label from Bill Cubit today. Ditto Tracy Claeys at Minnesota earlier this month. And Miami’s Larry Scott has won 4-of-5 since taking over for Al Golden. Helton, though, now has a chance to be the Emperor of Interim Island if he can cop a conference championship after beginning the year as an offensive coordinator.

    A crown will be on the line next week in Santa Clara. A very good job might be, too, as Helton looks to finish what he started two months ago, when USC needed a leader to clean up the mess created by Sarkisian.

    Clay’s Big Day, Part Two

    E-mail Phil Harrison
    Follow me … @PhilHarrisonCFB

    Interim head coach Clay Helton is about to throw a monkey size wrench into this whole USC coaching search that’s about to begin in earnest. If he really was the guy the administration wanted to be the head coach long-term, you’d have to think that they would have already made that breaking news scroll at the bottom of our television sets. That hasn’t happened.

    If he really was the guy the suits wanted to lead the program into the Coliseum on Saturdays going forward, he would have been wearing the headset permanently from two interim stints he had. No dice.

    But now what do you do Pat Haden? With a rather convincing win over arch-rival UCLA, the Pac-12 South division championship is coming back to campus. With the win, it also means Helton’s going to take this team to Santa Clara for a legitimate shot at winning the conference.

    What if USC brings the trophy home? What then?

    First of all, it is at the least going to delay any traction on naming a head coach. There’s no way in Hades USC will go all Rambo on the college football world and name a new head coach prior to the date next week. That means other programs that haven’t done as well are getting a leg up.

    Long-term, I know, you know, and all of America knows that USC wants rock-star coach, and if any program should get it, it’s USC. But it’s going to be hard to go against the public sentiment on keeping Helton with a trophy being placed in the case at Southern California, especially after navigating the murky waters he’s had to deal with this year.

    Godspeed USC.

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