CFT preseason No. 17: USC


2010 record: 8-5, 5-4 (T-3rd, Pac-10)

2010 bowl: ineligible

2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/ineligible

Coach: Lane Kiffin, second year; 8-5 overall, 5-4 conference

Offensive coordinator: Kennedy Pola, second year

2010 offensive rankings: 37th, scoring offense (31 ppg); 26th, total offense (431.5 ypg); 25th, rushing offense (189.3 ypg); 41st, passing offense (242.2 ypg)

Defensive coordinator: Ed Orgeron, second year

2010 defensive rankings: 63rd, scoring defense (26.7 ppg); 84th, total defense (400.1 ypg); 49th, rushing defense (140.5 ypg); 109th, passing defense (259.5 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: 6

Returning defensive starters: 7

Location: Los Angeles

Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (grass; 92,000)

Last league title: 2008

2011 schedule: [view]

2011 roster: [view]

2010 statistics: [view]

Snapshot: For the second consecutive season, NCAA sanctions will prevent the Trojans from playing in the postseason, including the first-ever Pac-12 championship game. That doesn’t mean, though, that the Men of Troy have nothing to play for (well it kinda does but just play along).

For the third consecutive season, the offense will be in the capable hands of quarterback Matt Barkley and will continue putting points on the board at a rate that would normally scream double-digit wins — provided a somewhat suspect and inexperienced offensive line doesn’t permit Barkley to be mugged and/or maimed on a regular basis.

The problem, however, is keeping points off the board, at least at the rate they went up in 2010. Yes, once again, the biggest question mark will be the defense; how that unit improves will in large part determine whether Lane Kiffin & Company can improve upon last year’s eight-win season. The good news is the Trojans are stocked with talent along the defensive front, especially if end Armond Armstead can return from a heart issue. Beyond the front four, there are question marks. While there’s talent there — safety T.J. McDonald, linebackers Devon Kennard and Chris Galippo among them — the on-field production needs to begin to match that on-paper talent. If not, if the defense can’t turn around what was, in all honesty, an embarrassing display in 2010? The efforts of a productive offense that will only continue to get better will once again be wasted.

And Kiffin could very well find himself sitting on a seat with a rapidly increasing temperature. Simply put, an athletic director who didn’t hire you will not stand for four- and five-losses seasons, especially at a storied football factory like USC and especially when there’s an NCAA cloud still hanging over the coach from his time in Knoxville. In other words, Kiffin, live by the motto of one of your favorite former bosses: just win, baby. A lot.

Make-or-break game: Oct. 29 vs. Stanford

You could certainly make a case for a couple of games prior to this matchup. Conference games against Utah in early September and at Arizona State later that month could easily qualify, as could the annual showdown with Notre Dame, played this year in South Bend. It’s the home game against the Cardinal the week after the Irish, however, that will be telling. Not only is it a Pac-12 tilt — yes, still aware they aren’t eligible for the title game — but it’s one against a team that, along with Oregon, could very well be in the thick of the BcS chase deep into the season. Given there’s no postseason awaiting the Trojans, they need a game that serves as both their bowl game and a measuring stick for where they are as a football program in relation to the best their conference has to offer. The Cardinal game certainly offers the best of both those worlds, with the added bonus of possibly being able to spoil what could be a very special season for the Palo Alto school.

Heisman hopeful: Barkley

C’mon. Like you didn’t see this one coming. Barkley has put up nearly 6,000 yards and 41 touchdowns in his first two seasons as the starter. Given the talent returning around him — Robert Woods might be the most underrated receiver from a Big Six conference in the country — and yet another year’s worth of experience, Barkley should see a fairly sizable rise in production, which in turn should lead to his name being littered on Heisman watch lists far and wide. Perhaps the biggest nit to pick when it comes to Barkley and his ability to take it to the next level is turnovers, specifically interceptions — he’s thrown 26 of them during his freshman and sophomore seasons. Provided he cuts down on the INTs, and provided his team maintains some semblance of national exposure, Barkley will likely be mentioned as a stiff-armed contender deep into the season.

Postseason projection: Ineligible

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LSU confirms promotion of Tiger great Kevin Faulk as RBs coach

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An LSU football legend officially has an on-field role at his alma mater.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Kevin Faulk would be promoted from his current position as LSU football director of player development.  Thursday, the Tigers confirmed that Faulk has been promoted by Ed Orgeron to running backs coach.

Faulk replaces Tommie Robinson, who left to take the same job at SEC West rival Texas A&M.

“We would like to thank Tommie (Robinson) for being a part of our national championship program and wish him the best in his future,” the LSU football head coach said in a statement. “Kevin is a great teacher and mentor and someone that has earned the respect and love of our players. We are honored to have one of the greatest players in LSU history as part of our coaching staff. This is a home run hire.”

Faulk played collegiately for LSU football from 1995-98.  He is still the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,557) and rushing TDs (46).

Faulk was then a second-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 1999.  He spent 13 years in the NFL, joining his high school alma mater’s football coaching staff upon his retirement following the 2011 season.

In 2018, Faulk rejoined the LSU football program in an off-field role.  This will be his field on-field role at any level of college football.

“The day I graduated high school I knew I wanted to be a coach,” the 43-year-old Faulk said. “The coaches I had growing up meant so much to me and the community, and I knew I wanted to be that guy. To coach at my alma mater is the best thing I could ever hope for. I wear the purple and gold with pride every day, and I am ready to get going to help win another national championship.”

Ford Field to host even more MACtion in 2020

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The MAC title game isn’t the only bit of #MACtion that Ford Field will see in 2020.

The conference recently released their annual football schedule on Wednesday and among the notable league games is the rivalry contest between Central Michigan and Western Michigan. While this one figures to have division implications on Oct. 17, things are going to be slightly different this year.

Namely that it won’t be on either campus and will instead be played at Ford Field.

“Ford Field has been the location of many great experiences for CMU Football, and this is an opportunity to create another iconic experience for our program and our university,” athletic director Michael Alford said in a release. “CMU’s continued success means out-of-the-box thinking. Bringing this game — and the events surrounding it — to Detroit allows our athletics program to help engage thousands of people who are passionate about CMU.”

It’s an interesting move that will push CMU to over a decade without a win over their directional rivals in Mt. Pleasant. Still, the larger venue and the opportunity to make things an even bigger event in the state’s largest city seem to have won out.

The Detroit News reported on Tuesday that the Chips wanted to do a multi-year deal at the home of the NFL’s Lions but that WMU said no thanks.

The Broncos have won seven of the last nine meetings, including last year’s 31-15 win in Kalamazoo. Despite that head-to-head victory though, Jim McElwain’s squad got the last laugh by winning the MAC West in one of the biggest turnaround stories of the 2019 season.

They wound up playing at Ford Field in the conference title game where they eventually lost to Miami (OH) 26-21. The venue has been the home of the MAC championship since 2004 and will have the next edition played on either Friday, Dec. 4 or Saturday Dec. 5.

Georgia Tech adds 2023 game against Bowling Green, makes slight change to 2021 schedule

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Georgia Tech is loving itself some #MACtion.

The school announced a pair of future schedule moves against teams from the eponymous league on Wednesday. Among the most immediate actions for the Yellow Jackets is that their 2021 contest against Northern Illinois will be shifted to become the season-opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 4.

GT will then play FCS Kennesaw State at home and conclude the early non-conference slate with a trip to Notre Dame on Nov. 20, 2021. Their annual rivalry contest against Georgia will conclude the regular season the final weekend of November as usual.

Tech also added Bowling Green to their upcoming docket. The Falcons will head to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Sept. 30, 2023. A trip to Ole Miss and the in-state rival Bulldogs coming to Atlanta will round out the Jackets’ non-conference schedule with one more opening still to be signed (likely against an FCS opponent).

Head coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 squad will have their attention on a conference opponent to open the upcoming season as they take on ACC opponent Clemson at home on Thursday, Sept. 3. The two programs will also meet again in city for the 2022 season opener at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium as well.

While those big name opponents will get more attention from fans in the region, don’t discount a bit of that #MACtion heading South either.

Waiting to cancel game with FCS opponent cost USC an extra $500,000

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Keeping Clay Helton around wasn’t the only decision last year that upset USC fans. Now the school backtracking on a choice it just made has cost the program a pretty penny.

For those not in the know, cardinal and gold supporters up in arms last year when it was announced the program had agreed to a non-conference game with UC Davis for the 2021 season. Such a contest typically doesn’t draw much attention but it did in Los Angeles as it was the first FCS opponent the Trojans were to play in their illustrious history.

That would have left rivals UCLA and Notre Dame as the only two FBS programs not to play an FCS team.

Then things changed. The athletic director responsible for the deal, Lynn Swann, was shown the door. His replacement Mike Bohn has gone about trying to make amends and recently announced that USC had eventually backed out of the game against the Aggies.

In their place on the docket at the Coliseum that season is another Bay Area team, San Jose State. We already recounted how the Spartans made out quite nicely on the balance sheet as a result of this (and subsequent buyout from Georgia) swap. As it turns out though, they weren’t the only Northern California team to do so.

According to the Davis Enterprise, the buyout UCD was owed was only supposed to be $225,000. However terms called for that to jump to $725,000 after the start of the new year. Because the Trojans waited around they then had to pony up that extra half million for doing something they had been considering since the new administration came in.

“It’s pretty funny. We had every intention of playing that game,” Aggies senior associate athletics director Josh Flushman told the paper. “We just wanted to make sure (if there were) buyouts we were going to get the money.

“In December, (AD Kevin Blue) and I joking said, ‘Don’t take any phone calls from L.A. numbers until after the first.’”

The call didn’t come until February and the school is that much richer for it. On top of that they added a $400,000 guarantee game from Tulsa to replace Southern Cal on the schedule to boot.

Waiting may be the hardest part for some but it resulted in a nice seven-figure gain at UC Davis.