Right now, the Ed Orgeron bandwagon is barreling up and down I-110 at breakneck speeds, gaining momentum at every turn. A win over Stanford, the No. 4 team in the nation and an opponent USC hadn’t beaten in the last four tries, warrants such a swell of support from fans and players.
Pat Haden can’t be nearsighted now. Not after the Kiffin saga. Orgeron should not have the interim tag lifted, no matter what the result against UCLA is in two weeks. He has somehow turned the media’s attention back toward USC, but if he becomes permanent head coach, then USC will win as many national titles as it has won since Matt Leinart and [redacted] left Troy.
Coach O is winning thanks to scrappy plays and a positive attitude. He has been not just backtracking, but sprinting in the opposite direction from the ways of Kiffin.
“The whole team has picked up more physicality and become tougher,” redshirt junior defensive end George Uko said after Saturday’s win.
The problem with his strategy is that perennial national title contenders don’t win titles through scrappiness or discipline; they win them by dominance.
Alabama has won two straight titles by going out every week ready to throttle their opponent. The same goes for Oregon, which performs at such a high level that each loss makes headlines across the nation. Even if the Ducks are title-less, they’ve established themselves as a team to be feared. Another team on the list: the 2005 USC team that averaged just shy of 50 points per game.
USC needs a head coach that has the offensive pedigree to help the Trojans steamroll their opponents. The Trojans want scores like 62-28 over Cal rather than 19-3 over Utah. Even though USC allowed 483 yards (albeit some in garbage time) in Berkeley, the excitement and perceived dominance was miles ahead of the win over Utah, where an exceptional USC defensive performance was mostly overlooked because of the offense’s less than stellar play. Injuries have drastically impacted USC’s offense this year, which means the read on offensive coordinator Clay Helton as the playcaller is still unclear.
Under Orgeron, USC would probably win nine to 10 games per season consistently. USC’s recruiting appeal, combined with soon-to-be-lifted sanctions, will allow the Trojans to reel in elite talent from across the country, and talent wins out more often than not in college football.
Orgeron, however, is not the kind of coach to lead teams to undefeated or one-loss seasons year in and year out, which is the unwritten expectation at this program. He motivates well, but bringing in different speakers and meals every week doesn’t lead to real results. Orgeron’s players love him and have admitted to playing harder because of it, but being the program leader at a school like USC requires much more than locker room rah-rah.
Orgeron has been put in a unique situation as the interim head coach. Kiffin was the nasty ex-boyfriend, and Orgeron is the rebound relationship. The first few dates have gone well, with Stanford being the best one yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to tie the knot.
The best-case scenario is hiring a new head coach and keeping Orgeron on staff in his role as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Orgeron insists he’s learned from his mistakes at Mississippi, where he went 10-25 in three seasons, and I’m inclined to believe him. To see whether he can be a full-time head coach, though, should be the risk of another school with smaller expectations and a less-qualified pool of coaches to choose from.
There’s still a chance, however, that Orgeron will stick around. If Steve Sarkisian is fired by Washington and would be willing to return to USC as the offensive coordinator, then a Trojan Family reunion might have a shot of making things work.
Still, the USC job is one of the most coveted in the world of college football. Orgeron is not qualified for the most prestigious coaching position this side of Texas (sorry, Steve Alford) — at least not yet. A UCLA win is what fans want most right now, but what’s more important is what happens in Pat Haden’s office once the lights go out in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the final time in 2013. Trojan fans should hope rationality is the key factor in his decision.
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