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The official team photo of the 2018 University of Southern California Trojans. Photo courtesy of usctrojans.com
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (USC) TROJANS FOOTBALL – 2018 SEASON
Final Record: 5-7, 4-5 and fourth place in the Pac-12 South
- Lost their last three games and five of their last six after a 4-2 start
- Lost to UCLA, 34-27, for the first time since 2014
- Lost to Notre Dame, 24-17
- First losing season since 2000
- First season without a bowl game bid since 2011 (and that was a sanctions year)
- JT Daniels, QB: 2,672 yards passing, 59.50% completions, 14 TD, 10 INT
- Aca’Cedric Ware, RB: 825 yards rushing, 6.6.,ypc, 6 TD
- Vavae Malepeai, RB: 501 yards rushing, 5.4 ypc, 8 TD
- Michael Pittman, Jr.: 41 receptions, 758 yards, 6 TD
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR: 60 receptions, 750 yards, 3 TD
- Tyler Vaughns, WR: 58 receptions, 674 yards, 6 TD
- Cameron Smith, LB: 81 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 1 sack
- John Houston, Jr.: 67 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack
- Christian Rector, DL: 48 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks
- Porter Gustin, DL: 28 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks (six games)
- Marlon Tuipulotu, DL: 33 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks
- Marvel Tell III, DB: 57 tackles, 1 INT
- Ajene Harris, DB: 57 tackles 1 INT
My Choice For Most Valuable Player: Porter Gustin
USC FOOTBALL’S TOP HIGHLIGHT OF 2018: The Trojans’ 39-36 win over Washington State on September 21, 2018. Courtesy of YouTube (click on the link)
Analysis, Comments and Thoughts:
As I posted on this blog’s Facebook page, I was wrong in my conviction that Clay Helton would be the former USC head coach by now as athletic director Lynn Swann announced, soon after the Notre Dame game, that Helton would return for his fourth full season in 2019.
Judging from what I’ve read in the tweets and comments on ‘SC’s Twitter and Facebook pages from the Trojan Family, very few of the boosters and alumni, many of them who are wealthy, powerful, and longtime donors of unreal amounts of money to USC and their football program, are happy with Swann’s decision and have declared that they will stay away from the Coliseum next year and stop donating money.
If I were a Trojan student, booster, alum, or fan, while I wouldn’t be happy that a search for a new head coach is going on at the moment, my attitude would be…
“It is what it is.”
Actually, when one thinks about it, the Trojans’ season went downhill when Porter Gustin, who led the team in tackles for loss and sacks, went down with a college career-ending injury after only six games.
Gustin was an absolute beast and the industrial super glue that kept the USC defense together, and that unit suffered when he went out.
As an illustration of how the loss of Gustin affected the Trojans…
Their record in the first six games: 4-2
Their record in the last six games: 1-5
I can’t make it any clearer than that.
Clay Helton’s (in white with cap) job was spared after his program’s first losing season in 18 years. But make no mistake, he will have one of the hottest seats in the country next year – if not THE hottest. Photo courtesy of ktla.com
And I think I’ve more than made my case as to why I chose Gustin as the Trojans’ MVP for 2018.
Outside of Gustin going down, the relative youth of the offense, with a true freshman who was supposed to still be playing high school football and another true freshman leading ‘SC in receptions, plus the lack of discipline as too many penalties – they were the most penalized team in the Pac-12 Conference with 96 yellow flags thrown against them – and incidents like Brandon Pili throwing a punch at the UCLA game, spelled doom for any Trojan success.
The frustrating thing for the Trojans and their fans in particular, I reckon, is the fact that these are four and five-star players wearing cardinal and gold, a team full of guys from top five recruiting classes whom the fact that, at 5-7, they underachieved is a pronounced understatement.
I think that’s a root of the frustration and the strong desire to see Helton gone; four and five-star football players are not supposed to lose one game, let alone seven.
Just ask Alabama.
A key hope for USC lies in what was a vulnerability for them this season – their youth on offense as Daniels and St. Brown, especially Daniels, will get better.
Other key guys like Malepeai and Vaughns are sophomores, and will undoubtedly put up bigger numbers in 2019.
And speaking of 2019…
The Trojans’ schedule is both favorable and unfavorable.
Favorable in that teams that beat them this year, namely Stanford, Utah and UCLA, come to the Coliseum as will Oregon and Mountain West Champion Fresno State.
And unfavorable in that ‘SC will have to go to Seattle, WA to face Pac-12 Champion and current Rose Bowl participant Washington,
And to South Bend, IN to face the team that will play Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX – which also happens to be the College Football Playoff semifinals – on December 29th: Notre Dame.
The Trojan Family seems to be excited about Helton letting go of offensive coordinator Tee Martin and hiring Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury, who’s known for running high-flying offenses, so there’s that.
And of course the high school players they sign in February will be crucial.
So my message to old ‘SC is…
Things aren’t as bad as they seem; you have some good young players, especially on offense, who are the future of your program, and except for having to go to Seattle and South Bend, you have a pretty favorable schedule next year.
However, Helton has been given the equivalent of a reprieve. He’s on the hot seat, as you are well aware, and for his sake he needs to win a heck of a lot more than five games in 2019.
Else say hello to Jack Del Rio, who’s the only coach I worry about if hired as he has MUCH coaching experience in the NFL AND is a Trojan alum and legend who as a linebacker for USC was the MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl; I see him as the coach who’s the most capable of bringing ‘SC back to national championship-level greatness.
As for Helton’s ultimate fate at this time next year and the possibility of Del Rio coming home, I’m sure the suits at USC will cross that bridge if and when it comes.
But for now, in stating the obvious,
They have a lot of work to do.
Trojans during one of their relatively few celebrations during the 2018 season. Photo courtesy of foxsports.com