There are few teams that have fallen farther from grace this season than West Virginia. USC managed to do it, though.
The preseason No. 1 team has been the biggest disappointment in college football this year. The depth issues facing the Trojans were becoming impossible to ignore in the preseason, but it was hard to predict USC losing five out of its final six games, including today’s Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.
Max Wittek, replacing the injured Matt Barkley, went just 14-of-37 for 107 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions as the Trojans fell to the Yellow Jackets 21-7. Aided by blustery conditions, Wittek overthrew receivers all day and had a hard time connecting with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. But the redshirt freshman also generally had one mode for throwing the ball all afternoon: as hard as he could.
Wittek is young and will learn from the experience, but his performance was an impression of how Lane Kiffin once again was unable to make successful second half adjustments — if there were adjustments at all. For the third time this season, the Trojans failed to score in the second half of a game.
Kiffin calls the offensive plays, yet USC had just 205 total yards and had just seven first downs the whole game without the help of penalties. For perspective, that’s 182 yards less than what Georgia Tech, which fired defensive coordinator Al Groh midseason, allowed on average per game all year, and only 1-AA Presbyterian scored fewer points against the Yellow Jackets in 2012.
And it’s Monte Kiffin, USC’s defensive coordinator, who is retiring.
Of course, you can blame the game conditions or the inexperience of Wittek, but USC showed from the first down of play that it had no interest being in the Sun Bowl. Not that it was some gigantic secret.
So now USC becomes the first preseason No. 1 team since 1950 to lose six games in a season. It’s final loss came against a team that needed a bowl waiver just to get to the postseason.
It was going to be interesting to see how Wittek played since it appears he’s the future for USC at the quarterback spot, but the Sun Bowl turned into a disaster where little, if any, positives could be taken away for the Trojans.
Kiffin’s going to need a banner season in 2013 now more than ever. If he doesn’t, it will likely be his last in Los Angeles.