The Week 3 upset alert is on for two coaches planted squarely in the hot seat. Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans and Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns suffered very different but equally confounding Week 2 losses that, combined with recent misfires, have each head coach’s future in question.
There’s nothing either can do to affect public opinion, save win the next game. Both face considerable challenges at home Saturday.
Texas’ date with No. 25 Ole Miss was a non-conference tilt circled on many college football calendars before the season. It’s still compelling, though for a much different reason. The Longhorn defense makes its debut under new coordinator Greg Robinson against a Rebel offense with 70 points to its credit in the young season.
Ole Miss rolled up 39 in its season-opening win over Vanderbilt, with 138 yards rushing from running back Jeff Scott and another 70 via quarterback Bo Wallace. Stopping dual-threat BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was Texas’ undoing in Provo a week ago, and former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s swan song altogether.
Wallace is a more effective passer than Hill, which adds an extra element to challenge the Longhorn defense. True freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is as good as his advertised five-star status. The Ole Miss offense poses decided matchup problems for the 31/2
The Longhorns are also without starting quarterback David Ash, who remained questionable as of Thursday due to concussion symptoms. Case McCoy spelled Ash late in Texas’ 40-21 loss and was not especially effective.
Brown and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite know what the Longhorns get from McCoy, and the ceiling is rather low. Dual-threat Tyrone Swoopes generated considerable buzz in the spring season, and is the future of the program — but is the immediate future?
With Texas undergoing so much unanticipated change already in preparation for a quality opponent, inserting a freshman quarterback for his first collegiate may be an unnecessary rocking of the boat. Conversely, if McCoy struggles — a distinct possibility — Swoopes is thrust into the lineup regardless. Giving the youngster the nod from the outset sets the tone going forward.
But to reiterate, Brown doesn’t necessarily have a future at Texas for which to set a foundation. A national championship and a second appearance in the BCS title game has bought him more clout than Kiffin though, he enters as close to a must-win situation as a coach can face in Week 3.
The Trojans’ anemic offensive performance in a 10-7 loss to Pac-12 counterpart Washington State last week was greeted with boos and chants of “fire Kiffin” from the Coliseum crowd. USC’s defense is flourishing under coordinator Clancy Pendergast, but the anemic offense is incapable of capitalizing.
Exacerbating the on-field issues is the on-field foolishness that has defined USC football in the past season-plus. A public back-and-forth over the semantics of what constitutes a meeting served as additional white noise for the inane chatter emanating from Heritage Hall.
Oh, by the way: USC has a game to play.
Boston College finished just 2-10 a season ago, but matched both its ACC and overall win totals with last Friday’s 24-10 defeat of Wake Forest.
Steve Addazio has reinvigorated the program, and four-year starting quarterback Chase Rettig has played his best football yet under new offensive coordinator Ryan Day. Rettig won’t receive a warm welcome from the Trojans’ tenacious front seven in his return to Southern California, but simply avoiding turnovers may be all he needs to do to give the Eagles an opportunity.
That’s because the Coliseum audience has another low scoring affair ahead of it. Boston College was stocked with defensive play-makers even through the recent down period. This particular Eagle group features Steele Divitto, a future NFL linebacker and Butkus Award candidate, and aggressive blitzing outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis.
Because BC is stout up front, the Trojans could struggle to establish a consistent rush. At this juncture, that’s really all Kiffin has in his arsenal.
This game is dire straits for Kiffin. The Washington State loss cracked the already-thin ice on which the embattled coach stands. A second straight home defeat against a team that finished 2012 well below .500 warrants a mid-season dismissal.
It’s an unfortunate thing for the Trojan players to have lingering over their preparation, but a harsh reality.