Following the conclusion of the Pac-12′s season (minus the Title game that none is going to watch), Mark Knight from The Husky Hall, Michael Castillo from The 110 Report and I had a little discussion about the state of affairs in the PAc-12.
Here’s our take on everything from Larry Scott, to whether USC has risen back to the top spot, to Coach Lane Kiffin’s performance this seaso:
1. Is USC Still the team to beat in the Pac-12?
Trenise: Absolutely. This season, USC proved that nothing, not even bogus NCAA sanctions or Larry Scott’s betrayal can stop the Trojans from doing what they do best–winnnning. No one would have faulted them if they quit on this season since they had nothing to play for, and no one would have been surprised if they posted a similar or marginally improved record over last seasons. But instead, SC fully embraced their motto of “Fight On!”, and clawed their way back into the spotlight. They really should be undefeated this season, if not for a fluke loss to Stanford in 3OT and choking against ASU. no one else in the conference could face what USC faced and bounce back from it so seamlessly. So yes, USC is still THE team in the Pac12.
Mark: When USC got going, they couldn’t be stopped. If we discount that uninspired football they played against ASU. The only team that was able to hang with them this season was Stanford, who needed 3 OT to kill off the Trojans. And at any point in those 3 over times could it have gone the other way for USC.
Oregon also was able to contend against USC but the Trojans looked better, and it was that weird Duck style of football that kept them around. Trojans were more talented.
So, I side with Coach Sark on this one, USC is the most talented team in the Pac-12.
Michael: Until a team can recruit better than USC, they always will be one of the teams to beat. When you look at how USC recruits, they’re the only school in the conference that recruits on the merits of the talent and not the needs of the roster. Kiffin is able to sell the team as a pathway to the NFL, something that a school like Oregon can’t. Look a player like Marqise Lee. He chose SC over Oregon, because he not only wanted to join his high school teammates in Robert Woods and George Farmer, but USC’s offense is a showcase for the NFL given the pro-style offense. Since schools like Oregon and Washington and UCLA have opted for the spread option style of offense, they lose out on play makers at receiver and quarterback. Given the struggles that most teams in Pac-12 have at defending the pass, USC is hard to stop through the air, with or without Matt Barkley. Until a team can develop a shutdown defense like they have in the SEC, USC will always be a favorite for the Rose Bowl under Lane Kiffin.
2. Should Matt Barkely stay or forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft?
Trenise: This is a tough one because there is an argument for both sides. On one hand, Barkley has no real financial imperative to go pro, as he is from Newport Beach in Orange County and his pockets aren’t hurting. If he were to stay for his senior season, he would return to a top-10 ranked SC team, heisman talks, and a possible trip to Miami in the post season, with the sqaud he went on a 10-2 run with this season. His stock can’t really drop if he stays, but he can enhance on his resume and work on that whole telegraphing passes issue that he still has that drives me NUTS. On the other hand, he has had an UNREAL season, breaking records left and right, and making a legit name for himself. He started for 3 years at SC, he is a solid QB, and he would go pretty high. I have heard though from those around the team that Matt says he will stay if Matt Khalil stays, and vice versa, and that draft order isn’t important to him so much as the team that would pick him is.But i personally thing he should stay and with the Natty with USC! ONE MORE YEAR!
Mark: I am going to be the outsider on this topic for sure. I don’t have any personal or passionate opinion about Barkley. He is really good and thus should at least highly consider going pro.
I can see the cons of staying- maybe lose some hype, injury risk, etc. I can see the pros of staying- improving, becoming bowl eligible again, heisman front-runner, etc.
But all in all- I think if the opportunity is right he should go. Unless he has unfinished business at USC.
Michael: I think he should stay, and I actually wrote a piece on this for the dreaded Writing 340, and any USC student knows all about that form of argumentation. For me, he should stay to finish what he started and have the chance he deserves to win a National Title and a possible Heisman Trophy. Could he get hurt? Sure. But Sam Bradford skipped the NFL for a year and stayed at Oklahoma after winning the Heisman as a redshirt sophomore, and despite getting hurt as a junior, he actually improved his draft stock and went No. 1 overall to St. Louis. Now, look at Andrew Luck. The same can be said for him, as he’s now a consensus No. 1 overall pick, where last season he would have had to compete with Cam Newton’s combine measurables. Barkley isn’t as good as Luck in terms of being an NFL prospect, so if he comes back, he’ll have the year to himself and be the de facto No. 1 overall pick and avoid going to the hapless Miami Dolphins. But, Barkley looked awfully final in his body language at the Coliseum after beating UCLA, and he graduates in May, which can’t bode well for the chances of him staying. Then again, Matt Leinart and Peyton Manning stayed.
3. Does Lane Kiffin have a shot at the Coach of the Year Award?
Trenise: I think Kiff is a legitimate contender for this, if solely for the fact that he took a team rocked by sanctions and brought them back to national contenders, and he took on two top 5 teams in a 3 week period to do it. Sure there are better teams out there (half the SEC for example), but those teams didnt have to go up against the odds that this Trojan team did. He was definitely questionable at time, but given time to grow, I feel like he has done almost as much in his first two years as Petey C did in his first two seasons. I’ve punched my ticket and am taking my seat on the Lane Train! Let’s Go Coach Kiff! DONE
Mark: Not without a championship or a bowl game win. Next year.
Michael: He’s a contender, especially for doing so much under the scrutiny of the sanctions, and how he did it. This team was left for a dead back in September, yet turned everything around. Kiffin stopped going for two(until last night), he proved there was more than Barkley-to-Woods connection, and he found a 1,000 runner in Curtis McNeal. Not to mention he coached up a team of freshman of sophomores to rally back from a frustrating loss in Tempe, to nearly beat Andrew Luck, and dominate Oregon for three quarters, before upsetting them by means of a missed field goal. That said, I don’t think he gets it. Les Miles has plenty of clout and will get is due, as well as Kevin Sumlin over at Houston and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.
4. Was the real Pac-12 Championship Game played the week of 11/19?
Trenise: Absolutely. The two best teams in the conference met in the most hostile stadium in the conference, and we saw the outcome. But more important than the outcome was the 38-14 beatdown that USC was delivering the Ducks for a good amount of time. USC fans have been saying during Oregon’s recent rise to prominence that, sure, Oregon does have a stealthy offense and sure they are pretty freakin good, but they aren’t good when it matters. Read: Rose Bowl ’09, Natty ’10, LSU ’11. But in spite of that, they were indeed the Trojans hardest opponent. And a rematch of that next week would have made for some great tv! USC provides a solid pro style offense while Oregon has an unreal spread, and both teams have extremely capable defenses. Unlike conference match ups in other places like the BIg12 (that doesnt beleve in defense) and SEC (where one side is clearly superior), both teams were fairly evenly matched and balanced, and played a great, hard fought game. And if ppl dont think that bowl game (yeah, u read that right) was the best in the conference, then it might be able to go to USC/Stanford, USC’s 2nd bowl game this season (the first being ND). That was the greatest game I have ever seen played in the Coliseum. But because for the first time, USC was on the other side of a BCS upset, im still gonna say USC/Oregon was the conference championship. And Pat Haden must agree that SC is the best in the South because he ,ade the team Pac12 South Champions shirts!
Mark: If we live in an ideal world, I would pick to watch USC versus Stanford again. Just a thrilling game from start to finish. Oregon is not as good this year but they still have a ton of speed. Thus making them still effective. But if I were to chose the top two teams in the conference it would be USC vs. Stanford (again).
Michael: Yes it was. They ended up as the best two teams on paper and in the standings. Can you call USC de facto Champions? Sure, if you want to, but I think Oregon still earns it, as will be evident come Friday night, because they beat Stanford and never got tripped up otherwise. Obviously USC vs. Oregon Round 2 would make the most sense, but I really doubt either team would want a rematch. I have my doubts as to whether USC could win in Eugene twice, and you know Oregon would be concerned about facing Barkley again.