Can Clay Helton win back USC fans in 2020?

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

Is it possible for Clay Helton to win back the faith of USC fans in 2020? The Trojan fanbase is not interested in anything less than a championship, Pac-12 or national.

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The return of Clay Helton as USC head coach was met with disappointment, if not anger, from the USC fanbase at large.

But has he lost the fans for good? What would it take for Helton to get the fanbase back on his side?

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Short answer: A lot.

Longer answer: Winning big is a must in 2020.

Simply put, fans expect Helton to put up or shut up. For the majority of respondents in a very unofficial Twitter poll, nearly 50 percent, that means winning a playoff game. Another third of voters put the threshold even higher: Winning a national title. Less than 20 percent saw winning the Pac-12 as adequate.

But of course it’s not that simple. Not just because Twitter polls are unscientific, but because USC fans have a vast array of opinions on what it would take for Helton to win them over as individuals.

For some, a Pac-12 title would go a long way to putting them at peace over Helton’s return, though doing so in impressive fashion is part of that scenario.

For many others, a playoff berth is the start, with additional concerns focused on recovering USC’s recruiting ranking.

The Trojans are currently ranked 78th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12 in the 247Sports composite. That’s a historically low ranking for one of the biggest recruiting powers in the west.

As for the playoff itself, that would be a step Helton hasn’t yet taken as a head coach. Since fans have seen him win a Rose Bowl and take the Pac-12 crown before, it’ll take more to convince them the head coach has the team on an upward trajectory.

What else are fans looking for when it comes to Helton proving them wrong?

A change to USC’s practice strategy is one thing…

Also, beating Nick Saban’s Alabama when the Trojans square off with them in Arlington in September of 2020 would go a long way…

Many USC fans are willing to give Helton a chance in 2020, but a chunk have no interest in waiting any longer for Helton to win them over.

Those fans appear to be lost causes for Helton.

The 2020 season will have plenty of intrigue and no one knows how it will all play out in the end. A weak Pac-12, with Utah replacing the core of their South division-winning team, Stanford and Washington slipping and question marks swirling over UCLA and ASU, and a relatively favorable schedule should put USC in the running for the Pac-12 title. That’s if Helton can get his team prepared to take advantage of the slate in front of them.

That is, and will remain, the big question.

So what would a fair standard to hold Helton to?

The skepticism around the head coach has always revolved around his ability to take USC to the top. So playing Alabama competitively, whether winning or losing, is a reasonable start. Winning a weak Pac-12 is unquestionably legitimate. Getting to the Pac-12 title game would be an absolute minimum. Avoiding any embarrassing blowout losses in general is not asking too much. From there, again it’s all about how far Helton is capable of bringing his team.

Boil that all down? It’s time for USC, and Helton, to start winning the eye test.

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