USC football roundup: Best coordinator hires, trap games and Urban Meyer talk

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Where does Graham Harrell rank among coordinator hires this offseason? Can the Trojans be a trap game? And why won’t Urban Meyer come to USC football?

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USC football didn’t make the best coordinator hire in college football this season.

Maybe Kliff Kingsbury staying on as offensive coordinator would have moved the needle more, but Oklahoma landing defensive coordinator Alex Grinch from Ohio State took the top spot in Athlon Sports’ ranking of coordinator hires.

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Still, the Trojans salvaged their OC position rather well, according to Steve Lassan, by landing North Texas’ Graham Harrell. He rated as the 11th-best coordinator hire of the year.

Considering the context of picking up Kingsbury only to be blindsided when he took a head coaching position, USC’s targeting of Harrell did make perfect sense.

On top of being Kingsbury lite, he will allow the Trojans to move to the Air Raid system as planned.

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Head coach Clay Helton could have settled for a much less exciting, or more established, OC to plug the hole, but he made a bold choice. In doing so he ignited quite a bit of energy in the program, especially once Harrell got to work in Spring Camp. He deserves credit where it’s due.

Head coach rankings CFN

Exciting as the Harrell hire was, College Football News ranked Helton himself No. 10 among Pac-12 head coaches going into 2019.

In slotting him so low in the conference, Pete Fiutak was pretty upfront about his reasoning which leaned heavily on “What have you done for me lately?”

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Indeed, going 5-7 with USC’s talent in 2018 was probably the biggest underachievement in the Pac-12. If 2016 and 2017 were the more recent seasons, the ranking would certainly look much different, but those Rose Bowl and Pac-12 title wins can only carry Helton so far.

Path to the playoff

How can the Pac-12 get a team into the College Football Playoff? Fiutak laid out the keys for the conference for College Football News and one of them runs straight through USC.

It’s not that the Trojans need to be the ones making the playoff push, but the rest of the conference would be greatly helped if USC put up more of a fight than it did in 2018.

“They need to be good enough so that beating them matters.”

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The stronger USC is, the stronger the Pac-12 is.

What is a trap game?

The Sporting News determined trap games for every Top 25 team this preseason and designated USC as the trap for No. 13 Oregon.

Which begs the question: Is it possible for USC to be anyone’s trap game?

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As Bill Bender sees it, the Ducks could get caught wiping the sweat off their face after two huge Pac-12 North matchups against Washington and Washington State before traveling to face the Trojans.

That makes some sense, but it’s hard to imagine Oregon overlooking the Trojans, especially in the Coliseum. The last time the two teams played USC spanked the Ducks 45-20 and they haven’t been able to seek revenge because of the scheduling cycle in the Pac-12.

Plus, USC is a team everyone seems to circle on their calender, whether they’re rolling or reeling.

No Urban Meyer

Earlier this month, Bender offered an unpopular opinion regarding USC in another piece on Sporting News.

“Urban Meyer won’t go to USC.”

Bender cites Meyers real health concerns and his already iconic status at Ohio State. He doesn’t have to prove his worth with USC in the Pac-12.

Interestingly enough, Bender offers another name from the Big Ten to keep an eye out for: Penn State’s James Franklin.