USC Football: Sun Bowl Fate Will Set The Tone For 2013


September 15, 2012; Stanford, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin (right) talks to quarterback Matt Barkley (7) during the third quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal defeated the Trojans 21-14. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When the Trojans take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on New Year’s Eve, they will somewhat unceremoniously bring an end to their 2012 season. But they have two options: they can struggle and end their first bowl game since 2009 on yet another underachieving note, or they can win strong and usher in 2013 with optimism and confidence.

So what will they do?

On paper, USC has more talent and is favored to win. The Trojans have weapons on weapons on weapons and as we saw oh so sporadically, they can be lethal when properly used. That reality of course will be constructed by head coach Lane Kiffin, who has shown more often than not that when it comes to play-calling, he is sketchier than the quality of Paris Hilton’s sex tape. If they bring their A-game, USC’s offense could put on one final show in 2012 and leave fans and analysts with something to think positively about for the future.

The Yellow Jackets employ the triple-option offense, a scheme that USC’s soon-to-no-longer-be defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin hasn’t schemed against since Michael Jackson was still black. They don’t pass nearly as well as some of the teams in the Pac-12 do, so USC could effectively stifle the swarm of Yellow Jackets. On the other hand, the Trojan defense hasn’t fair particularly well against even familiar offenses, so with this funky scheme in the mix, we could be in for an offensive melee. This will be the final game that USC’s defensive unit plays under Monte Kiffin, and naturally they are looking to give him a proper send-off.

To add even more uncertainty, USC could be without its veteran QB Matt Barkley once again. He is still recovering from an AC sprain he suffered in November against UCLA, and when the team arrived in El Paso on Tuesday, he attended practice but did not participate. But would it even be in his–or USC’s for that matter–best interest for him to play? His draft stock has already taken a considerable hit from the way he played in 2012 and another ding on his record would do him no favors. Furthermore, Max Wittek pleased Trojan fans enough in his first start against Notre Dame, and if he is to be the future of the program, Kiffin might as well prove that he has faith in him now.

If USC wins the Sun Bowl, it means going into the offseason with momentum that will extend to USC signing one of the top recruiting classes in the country. If they lose, the anxieties surrounding this program would only heighten, and it could mean not only a disastrous February, but a spring filled with uncertainty and doubt.

The way the Trojans exit 2012 could construct the narrative for how they could do in 2013. Then again, we thought the same thing at the end of 2011, and look how that turned out.