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Matt's Monday Morning Musings: Week six - Trojan Horse?

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 greatest quarterback in the country who has yet to beat his greatest enemy - his own defense...




Let's wind the clocks back, shall we?


In 2010, Auburn caught lightning in a bottle, and convinced one Mr. Cam Newton to bring his talents to the Plains. What resulted was a magical season in which Auburn trailed in half the games they played, had to outscore their opponents in multiple shootouts and couldn't stop a nosebleed on defense unless they got lucky.


And somehow, Cam still won the Heisman and led Auburn to a National Championship.


If that season were to happen in the modern era of the Playoff, Auburn would have been swept off the stage in the first round. Ted Roof wasn't the most spectacular defensive coordinator. Gus Malzhan was still an unknown wunderkind in the SEC, just in his second year who happened to have Cam. Auburn's best receiver was Darvin Adams, who went undrafted, and the only other major NFL Draft selection from that roster was first-round pick Nick Fairly.


Heck, head coach Gene Chizik was fired just two years later.


I reminisce about that season, not just because I'm an Auburn diehard, but because I see the similarities in the current version of the Trojans, but unfortunately for Lincoln Riley's squad, this isn't the BCS era anymore.


Via Andrew Lind



Starting with the quarterback, Caleb Williams (1,822 - 22 td- 1 int). Here we have a talent that is far and away a better NFL prospect than Cam was, and has the spectacular talents of Jayden Rice (Jerry Rice's kid) and Taj Washington to throw to, but needing to bail out your team against an Arizona team that beat lowly Stanford by 1 point and went 5-7 overall last year doesn't exactly scream playoff worthy. Buffs coach Deion Sanders almost got a signature win when his son Sheduer mounted a comeback for the ages, falling short in the final minutes.


What Riley has brought to the table, from his days as the ECU offensive coordinator, is one of the bests offenses in college football, averaging over 40 points per game and has thus far created 3 Heisman winners and 2 #1 overall picks in the Draft.


No one is questioning if Lincoln Riley is an elite playcaller or head man, but the trend of where his defense ranks at USC is troubling. While at Oklahoma, the Sooners finished the season ranked 60th out 0f 130 FBS teams in scoring defense. You could give a pass, considering it's the Big XII, but Grinch was known for more physical units when he was at Ohio State. The 2017 Broyles award finalist turned around a Buckeyes unit that was outside the top 100 into a top 40 defense, and if USC could at least get into that area of rankings, the Trojans would be unstoppable.


Instead, after a year at USC and an offseason of preparation, the Trojans have a top 4 offense handicapped by a defensive unit that ranks 109.


Not 19


109.



At the end of the day, accountability must be taken and someone has to answer for their actions. What Grinch promised to bring to the table after his years at Ohio State has been nothing of the sort, and these Trojans have turned into a trojan horse of a team- Shiny and pretty, but ultimately hollow and full of lies. Make no mistake about it, USC is in deep trouble because someone (Lincoln) allowed Grinch to return to the sidelines for 2023. Lincoln had every right to fire Grinch after the meltdown against TULANE of all people in the Cotton Bowl and with Caleb Williams returning, could have hand-picked his next assistant like Nick Saban used to back in the day. After the 2022 season, Ron Roberts was fired by Baylor, and went to Auburn where the 3-2 Tigers at least can boast a top 25 defensive unit. Austin Armstrong was a top candidate after his work at Southern Miss and now has Florida playing solid football at no. 16 overall in the country (all defensive stats, per the NCAA).


Instead, Lincoln stood by his guy. When asked after the Colorado thriller if he still trusted him, all he had to say was this-


"Yes, I do."


That may be well for you for now, Lincoln, and you have the Man of Steel in Caleb Williams to keep things shiny on offense for USC as the Trojans look to make the Playoff for the first time after barely missing out in 2022.


Could they still win it all? Yes, but at the end of the day, it's a war crime to be wasting Caleb's talents on a Pac-12 championship contender that couldn't block a call if they tried. After a full off-season, there are no more excuses. Time is ticking for USC to figure out how to get off the field on defense, or else Bo Nix (or Michael Penix Jr.) will steal the Heisman from Caleb and my next article will be titled "How Alex Grinch Stole Christmas".


And the ramifications go beyond what's on the field. Caleb might decide to go play for the Chicago Bears (as of this writing) after all instead of playing Superman all the time and risking injury. At some point, picking your buddy because he's your "guy" has consequences, and USC might face them sooner, rather than later. Usually, the results aren't pretty.


Just ask Dan Mullen.


Matt's Monday Morning Mailbag


"Where can we ask you awesome questions, Matt?" - Matt


Good question, Matt. My inbox has been pretty dry lately, so if you all want to talk ball with me PLEASE reach out via X (formerly Twitter) at @TheBarningMan and shoot me what's on your mind.


For now, here's my top 4 playoff teams after week 6-

  1. Michigan

  2. FSU

  3. Georgia

  4. Oregon

Till then, see you next Monday Morning.


- Matt





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