What happened to USC?
By: Tim Rodriguez
There are some former powerhouses in college football in the midst of dark days. Former consistent winners and national champions have found themselves questioning the future of their program. With the USC Trojans already making a midseason coaching change, what other former college football powerhouses should be evaluating what’s next?
The USC athletics department has already decided that the program needs to head in a new direction. Head coach Clay Helton was relieved of his duties earlier this season and the program is looking for someone to restore them to their glory days. With NIL going into effect, playing in Southern California should be even more attractive to recruits. One of the biggest problems at USC in recent years has been losing local quarterbacks to other schools. Since Clay Helton took over, there have been numerous quarterbacks from the are to go on and be difference makers for other schools such as Jared Goff, Josh Rosen, and DJ Uiagalelei. USC has had talent at the position with players like Sam Darnold and Kedon Slovis, but given their pedigree in the early 2000’s, those players left a lot to be desired. Through Helton’s tenure, the roster has been talented, but not nearly as talented as it should be. If USC can find someone to run the program and stop losing to other schools in recruiting, they may be on the rise again.
Similar to USC, Miami’s problems are relatively simple: Recruit better and you’ll win more (especially with NIL). There has to be a proven winner brought in after Manny Diaz is inevitably fired. Had Miami fired Diaz earlier, they would have potentially had a shot at Oregon’s Mario Cristobal, a former Hurricane who grew up in Miami and coached at FIU, but with his new extension, it seems unlikely that a move is happening. Miami has been getting embarrassed in the trenches by better programs such as Alabama for the better part of the last two decades. The Hurricanes just look soft in big games, and also allow lesser teams to hang around because of poor play in the trenches, but especially at quarterback. Had Manny Diaz not been able to swing a couple of big transfers in the last two years, this program may look even worse.
The Scott Frost era has been tough on those who root for Nebraska. Since firing Bo Pelini after the 2014 season, the Cornhuskers boast just one winning season and two total bowl game appearances. The fall from grace in Lincoln has been dramatic and Frost, the former Nebraska quarterback was supposed to be the man to turn it all around. With Frost, Nebraska is in danger of missing a bowl for the fifth straight season. That hasn’t happened to this program since the late 50’s and early 60’s. Nebraska has no difference-makers on their roster and have not had any for quite some time. The cornhuskers sit at 2-2 now, which would be their highest win percentage since 2016. For a program that never had a losing season from 1969 to 2001, this is a fall unlike many others.
Florida State Seminoles
*sigh* The most dramatic fall for any program on this list is undoubtedly the Florida State football program. National champions just eight years ago, the Seminoles have found themselves at 0-3 and spiraling down even further. Mike Norvell’s first season was unspectacular, and the last hope for this program may be in the 2022 recruiting class. The current roster is uninspiring outside of some hidden gems on defense and a surprisingly effective running back room. If Norvell can find a way to keep Travis Hunter and A.J. Duffy committed, there is a shot at resurgence, but so many other blemishes need to be addressed as well. Mike Norvell isn’t going anywhere (strictly for financial reasons), and the team is about as poorly coached as power-five team can get. The fewest amount of penalty yardage yielded in a game by the Seminoles this season is 54 yards in an overtime loss vs Notre Dame. The offensive line is also something that has been poor for quite a few years now and has transcended multiple coaching staffs.
By far the best team on this list, the Nittany Lions are not that far from contending. Consistently a top ten finisher under James Franklin, Penn State just needs one final push to get over the hump. They are always a few pieces away from being legitimate threats to the college football playoff, with the main ones being quarterback and offensive line. They always have the defense and the skill players to hang with teams like Ohio State, but have been held back by average quarterbacks and middling offensive line play. The 2017 team should have made the playoff, but back-to-back road losses against Michigan and Ohio State ended their season long before the committee sat down. James Franklin may be a better coach than most, but until Penn State finds their “Dabo Sweeney” they’ll be on the outside looking in (until playoff expansion).