Maybe there’s a perfectly good explanation for USC reportedly showing up an hour late to a dinner with Sun Bowl opponent Georgia Tech — just like there was an explanation for deflated footballs in the Oregon game or jersey swapping against Colorado. Lane Kiffin’s benefit of the doubt is wearing thin.
But then, maybe the report is blown out of proportion. One hole was already poked in initial statements that the Trojans were an hour late for the dinner — multiple sources reported USC was actually 90 minutes late.
The dinner is a nice microcosm for USC’s entire presence in the Sun Bowl. While certainly not true for every Trojan, it’s safe to assume most are not happy about being in El Paso. Take Leonard Williams, who tweeted an underwhelming assessment of the city of El Paso.
Apparently, the intersection of hubris and malaise is on the Rio Grande. A Sun Bowl appearance culminates the disappointment of a 7-5 regular season that included four losses in the span of a month.
The Sun Bowl is what USC earned, but the prevailing mindset seems to be it’s not what USC deserves. Defensively porous performances against the spread offenses of Arizona and Oregon, and rivalry game defeats against UCLA and Notre Dame might serve notice that all isn’t so rosy. Alas, there’s still the same aura emanating from this program that premeated when it was prematurely annointed college football’s team to beat; nevermind that a loss to Georgia Tech would make this season’s team USC’s worst since the 5-7 version of 2000.
USC may be looking ahead to its plans beyond Monday. Wide receiver Robert Woods will announce his decision on the NFL Draft on game day, for example. Oversight is dangerous this time of year.
Bowl games often are as much about the next season as the concluding, and shouldering the momentum of five losses in six games would doom a USC team that frankly, may not be as talented as this year’s version.
The impact of scholarship reductions became evident as the season progressed. Even with a top five recruiting projected to ink with Kiffin on Signing Day, depth is as meaningful as talent. And the Trojan ranks will remain thin for the next few years.
Compensating for such deficiency rests with the coaching staff. Kiffin in on the hunt for a new defensive coordinator, but seems intent on keeping offensive play calling duties for himself.
That, more than USC’s record, should be a worrisome proposition among USC brass. Kiffin’s win-loss record is 25-12 in three seasons leading the Trojans. That’s an impressive mark, given the tumult present when he arrived.
However, the other stuff — the fighting with media, skipping bowl game dinners, the hubris — manifests in losses when there shouldn’t be.