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Matt's Monday morning musings: HOW THE ALEX GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Each week, our Executive Director, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish, 5.49

on TEMU) sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond.

Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his breakfast. This

week, he’s thinking about the waste that was Caleb William's career...


Over my life as an Auburn fan, and SEC guy, I've seen Nick Saban do more with less at the QB position and still win national titles. Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Jake Coker, and Mac Jones (if he keeps throwing interceptions like he is) are not names you hear in the NFL unless McCarron lands another backup job, but all of them found ways to bring home the hardware. Jalen Hurts was raw when he led Alabama to the title game, but couldn't find a rhythm against a hot Clemson team and eventually had to transfer to Oklahoma to hone his QB skills under Lincoln Riley. Tua Tagovailoa, a former five-star from Hawaii, was probably Saban's best QB prospect since McCarron and was a tremendous talent who is now a superstar for the Miami Dolphins. All of them are dim in comparison to what was probably Nick's most talented QB of all, the Philly-born, California-raised superstar, Bryce Young.


But the most puzzling thing about Young's career was this - He never won the national title while at Bama. Even with Jameson Williams and John Metchie III catching passes from him in 2021, and Brian Robinson Jr. running the ball, they ran into a brick wall named Kirby Smart and Georgia (well, granted, the Bulldogs capitalized on Jameson William's injury, but that's another article). The following year, Alabama reloaded and even returned offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, yet they failed to even make the playoffs. Tennessee and LSU made sure they didn't even make the SEC Championship. Bryce finished his Alabama career with a Sugar Bowl win over Kansas State and 8,365 passing yards, 80 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a Heisman, and left us all wondering if we had seen the biggest waste of talent in the modern age of college football.


And then, we met Caleb Williams. His only flaw? having to play with Alex Grinch as his defensive coordinator.


And this is how the Grinch stole Christmas in Matt's Monday Morning Musings.



When he left Ohio State for Oklahoma, he was walking into a unit that was outside the top 170 in total defense (according to the NCAA stats) and in 2020, Grinch bolstered the Sooners' defense into a formidable unit. They ranked third nationally in interceptions, fourth in opponent third-down conversion percentage, seventh in sacks per game, ninth in pass defense efficiency, and 29th in total defense. Not bad, for the offense-happy Big 12, right?


But then, regressions followed. The Sooner's total defense slipped from 29th to 76th in one year, and the only thing keeping them afloat was a freshman phenom named Caleb Williams.


When Riley bolted for the USC job, he took virtually everyone except the Oklahoma AD with him. Surprisingly, Grinch was one of the followers.


The argument was that the Pac-12 was an easier place to recruit top defensive talent and they would be able to win big without having to play catch up. The Trojans unit did improve from the bottom of the rankings to 56th in total defense in his first year, but once again the plan was to never play catch-up. Although, last year's plan was to play keep-ahead, and this year seems to be either keep-ahead or catch-up. I have no idea what USC's backups look like because they never seem to see the field, despite the offense averaging over 40 points per game.


The 2023 defense, however, allows 45 points per game. As we saw against Washington, there are some things even the great Caleb Williams can't overcome.


Williams has won the Heisman, true, and is a lock for the first overall pick in the Draft this April, but it took Riley too long to do what needed to be done after blowing a 15-point lead in the Cotton Bowl to woefully outmatched Tulane.


Now at 7-3, there isn't even a possibility for a Pac-12 Championship spot for the Trojans.


Following another regression, and allowing 52 points to Washington, Grinch has been fired. If only USC could get a stop here and there, we may never know just how far Williams could have taken the Trojans. The resurrection of the blue-blood program has been fun to watch, but the off-season decisions Lincoln Riley made have cost them a shot at history. A repeat Heisman? A Playoff berth? A national title, USC's first since 2003?


Gone. Much like Alex Grinch is now.






At 2,958 yards on the season, with 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, following his Heisman-winning campaign in '22, Caleb's legacy at USC (much like USC itself) will be just fine. Even though his career might not finish the way he wanted, he's done more for the Trojan program than any other quarterback there in the last two decades or so. The pains of Lane Kiffin and Clay Helton are long gone. Just replaced by the pain of "what if".


Grinch, thanks to his defense that ranks 124th in total defense out of 133 teams, that failed to get critical stops on 3rd down and generate turnovers, has ruined the Holidays for the USC faithful of what could have been a special season, and Riley will now go down as one of the biggest talent-wasters in history.


Caleb, despite his Heisman odds dropping from odds-on favorite to outside the top five (per DraftKings), will still most likely go number one overall in the Draft, maybe even win rookie of the year, win an MVP and a Super Bowl someday, but everyone will always look back on what could have been and wonder.


And unlike the Dr. Seuss story, there is no happy ending for this one.



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