If the new athletic director is hellbent on making a coaching change, Clay Helton is doing his damnedest to make it mighty difficult on the ol’ boy.
Behind the play of Kedon Slovis, No. 23 USC scored 28 straight points from midway through the second quarter to midway through the third to secure a convincing 52-35 win over rival UCLA (4-7). A true freshman quarterback, Slovis passed for a career-high — and school-record — 515 yards and four touchdowns. It’s the fourth time in five games he’s gone over 400 yards and thrown four touchdown passes.
The win was USC’s fourth in five years in the rivalry. More importantly, it keeps USC in the thick of the chase for the Pac-12 South title.
As this was its regular-season finale, USC finishes the year 7-2 in conference play. Utah sits at 6-1 in the league and can claim the division by winning its last two games (Arizona in Week 13, Colorado in Week 14). However, if the Utes stumble in either of those games, the Trojans would win the division and a spot in the conference championship game opposite Oregon by virtue of their head-to-head win over Utah in September.
So, if it plays out this way — Utah stumbles once, hands the division to USC — do you fire a head coach who makes it to the league title game? What if USC makes the championship game AND wins it, what do you do then?
“Any time you’re a part of a significant enterprise in something that so many people are invested in, it’s something we don’t want to race into,” the new athletic director, Mike Bohn, said last week in his last public comments on a timeframe for a Helton decision. “We’re not on a specific timeline that would do anything to jeopardize momentum or opportunities that exist, regardless of what those are. Revealing any type of timeline or plan at this point would be premature and probably inappropriate.”
Helton is in his fourth full season with the Trojans after going 5-4 as the interim head coach in 2015. In those first three seasons, the Trojans went 10-3, 11-3 and 5-7; they’re now 8-4 thus this season, giving Helton an overall record of 40-21, with a 31-12 mark in conference play.