USC’s coaching search was supposed to be as glamorous as a drive through Beverly Hills in a Rolls Royce. However, a gritty dark horse in a vintage muscle car has emerged recently. Ed Orgeron’s fixation with USC didn’t begin when he joined Pete Carroll’s staff in the year 2000. At six years old, the young Cajun looked up at the television screen during a Trojans game and vowed that one day he’d become head coach at USC.
What should have been a simple decision for the USC Trojans has quickly become a quagmire for the program. Ed Orgeron’s best argument for keeping the USC job is that he’s not the same guy who was quickly run out of Ole Miss six years ago.
At that time it appeared he’d never get a shot at the prestigious position. Coaches who win nine games in three seasons with a BCS conference program don’t usually reinvent themselves that drastically.
The only active coach whom Orgeron can hope to replicate is Bill Belichick’s. For all intents and purposes, Belichick was a failure in Cleveland before reprogramming himself into the Super Bowl-cyborg 2000. Ultimately, Belichick’s calling card is his meticulous organization and coaching genius.
Winning at Ole Miss in the SEC is considered on the same level of difficulty as winning with the Cleveland Browns. David Cutliffe is discovering that it’s easier to get W’s at Duke than it was as a Runnin’ Rebel. On the flip side, Hugh Freeze’s second-consecutive seven-win season doesn’t help Orgeron’s cause.
Nevertheless, Orgeron is currently the West Coast coaching answer to Rudy. Rudy only got one series before getting a sack on his final play and getting carried off the field.
Orgeron’s winning streak is a prolonged version of Rudy’s only series, and the win over Stanford was his improbable sack. The only thing that powerful scene of Orgeron using the USC sword to conduct the marching band’s victory song after the final horn sounded was Charles Dutton clapping passionately in the background.
The only question left unanswered is whether athletic director Pat Haden veers off script and decides to give the coach who is loved by the alumni as vociferously as Kiffin was despised a full-time opportunity to live out his dream. Haden went into detail on Los Angeles' KFWB's Trojans Live about the American Idol-like support Orgeron was receiving from USC fans.
“I counted them actually,” Haden said. “I had 136 pro-Coach O emails today. Those were just emails. That doesn’t count the tweets, letters and phone calls. In my day, they sent ‘em by carrier pigeon. Now, I get ‘em four or five ways.”
We’ve come a long ways from “Fire Lane Kiffiin” parking lot messages. Unlike John McKay and Pete Carroll, there’s no chance Orgeron will ever leave. The worry is that if they hire him for a bargain price, and pass over someone like James Franklin or Kevin Sumlin, that Orgeron will quickly make them wish he was gone. Beside, nobody wants to know what happened to Rudy once the credits finished rolling.
RING OF FIRE
No. 4 Baylor at No. 10 Oklahoma State
When Art Briles took over Stephenville High School’s football program in 1988, they hadn’t lost to powerhouse rival Brownwood since 1963. It only took two years for Briles to end the streak in 1990 before they became a record-shattering state championship-winning factory. Briles is back in a similar situation at Oklahoma State. Despite their rapid ascent up the Top 25, Baylor hasn’t beaten Oklahoma State in their last eight meetings. The last time Baylor lassoed the Cowboys, Baylor had the Big 12’s worst offense and Oklahoma State fielded the worst defense in the conference. The product on the field matched the embarrassment of watching the Jersey Shore cast try to stagger down the MTV VMA Awards red carpet.
This primetime matchup is compelling for its actual substance. There is no shame involved for the loser. The Bears are facing long odds to end the streak this Saturday, The Oklahoma State defense is currently seventh nationally in turnovers forced, turnover margin and interceptions. Petty has only thrown a single interception all year. Something has to give.
If Baylor outscores Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State in a world of trouble.
No. 17 Texas A&M at No. 22 LSU
Texas A&M’s run defense is about to get familiar with LSU’s running backs. They may be on the field for quite a bit as the Tigers run cone drills from end zone to end zone. Jeremy “The Definition of Down” Hill Running will rack up big numbers on the ground. Hill is the SEC’s second-leading rusher and when Manziel has to throw more than 30 times a games, his interception totals spike. However, in an ironic twist, he may be back in the Heisman front-running just by keeping his name out of the headlines this season.
No. 17 Arizona State at No. 14 UCLA
For one week, Ed Orgeron is a UCLA fan. If Arizona State wins on the road against UCLA, they’ll be declared champions of the Pac-12 South division. If UCLA wins, next week becomes a maze rife with infinitesimal paths to the division title for the Bruins, Sun Devils and even the USC Trojans.
UCLA has the momentum, too. It’s in their house and The Tackling Tailback Interloper, Myles Jack plays both sides of the football with a deftness not seen since Holy Cross’ two-way player extraordinaire Gordie Lockbaum was garnering votes as the Heisman’s Ralph Nader.
Statistically, Arizona State ranks as the Pac-12’s second-ranked rush defense, and their pass defense is the Pac-12’s best at taking passes the other way. Brett Hundley has had issues with that all season. I’m riding with Arizona continuing their ascent up the Pac-12 standings.
HEISMAN JURY – These candidates are making their case for why they should be awarded the sport’s most prestigious trophy. Each week, TSL will deliberate over each player’s weekly exploits.
1. Jameis Winston –The jovial, smiling Winston has been sequestered by the FSU coaching staff, but there’s been no difference in his gridiron performance. Winston is playing like no normal freshman. Under pressure from the media, district attorneys and an unidentified accuser, he should have shown signs of crumbling. That’s because Winston shines under pressure. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s completing 74.6 percent of his passes when being hurried or hit for an average of 13.6 yards per attempts.
2. Johnny Manziel – The interceptions Manziel has thrown this season may be held against him in a court of Heisman. Manziel often goes for broke when he’s throwing to keep pace in high scoring shootouts. However, it’s understandable when your defense is softer against the run than Charmin’. Despite, his two losses, the reward has vastly outweighed the risks for Manziel this season.
3. Andre Williams – Heisman voters are trying so hard to find quarterbacks for the ceremony, they’ve got blinders on. Eddie George, Ron Dayne, Herschel Walker, Archie Griffin, Bo Jackson and the ghost of Reggie Bush should be ashamed of themselves for conceding the college football world to dual threat quarterbacks. In addition to topping the rushing charts with 181 yards per game, 20-yard rushes and 200-yard games, he also accounts for 49 percent of Boston College’s offense. By comparison, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, accounts for just 30 percent and Melvin Gordon is less than a quarter of the Badgers offense. If comes within striking distance of Barry Sanders’ record he may have a legit argument for being seated as the top Heisman witness. Either way. It’s nice to have a Northerner on a potential Heisman ballot. Here’s to the King of the North.
4. Bryce Petty – From RGIII to Nick Florence, Baylor’s quarterback position is becoming the equivalent to Alabama running backs. I don’t think anyone has pointed this out yet, but he’s not even the best quarterback in Texas. It’s hard to pinpoint a moment in which Petty has stood out as anything more than a product of Art Briles’ system. However, he’s a signal caller for an undefeated program so he gets in off of his pristine undefeated record as a starting quarterback. He’s just a junior, so there’s always next season. For as much as Petty’s been talked about this season, has anyone ever heard him speak off the field?
5. Marcus Mariota – He still hasn’t thrown an interception and that left MCL knee sprain has limited him to -16 yards rushing in his past two games, however, injuries happen. Mariota doesn’t have another opportunity to redeem himself until the Pac-12 Championship Game.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
We’re nearing the end of this wild and choppy college football ride. August 29 seems like eons ago. It’s incredible to think that Baylor was unranked when the season began or that Andre Williams had never eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in a season. Texas was generously ranked in the Top-15 and Missouri was still considered an outsider in the SEC.
Northwestern was one quarter away from a 5-0 start and a win over Ohio State at the beginning of October. They haven’t won a single game since.
Jadaveon Clowney’s Heisman campaign went off the rails quicker than he could run the 40. Duke was considered a basketball school. Florida being considered an SEC Championship contender still deserves quite a Kat Williams-pitched shriek of laughter. Watching Florida’s offense waddle in the wrong direction all season has to make Notre Dame fans feel fortunate.
Carl Pelini was considered the well-adjusted Pelini brother before he was ejected for going all Rob Ford on the job. Crazy thing is that there are three weeks remaining. in the season. Strap in people. This is where the pretenders start getting seasick and spewing chunks overboard. The contenders start rowing harder until they reach BCS land. Time to find out which is which.