I'm not here to call for USC to fire coach Clay Helton. I'll leave that to local columnists and former players. It doesn't need to be said in this space, because let's be honest, Clay Helton has already been fired.
There might not have been an official release from the school with athletic director Mike Bohn offering a statement about Helton being a wonderful man but a change nevertheless being needed in the program. That will come.
Editor's note: Helton was fired five hours after the publication of this story.
It already seemed like a fait accompli heading into the 2021 season, just as Les Miles' early exit from LSU was predictable in 2016. But Helton's departure wasn't official until Saturday night. The Trojans, just hours after Oregon picked up the Pac-12's biggest win in years by beating Ohio State on the road, lost 42-28 as a 17-point home favorite to a Stanford team many aren't expecting to make a bowl game this season.
The worst part of the loss is that it didn't garner much attention nationally as a significant upset because the world has grown used to USC failing, which is a terrible statement about the program and the Pac-12 itself.
So, no, I'm not telling USC to fire Helton; I'm telling USC how to replace him.
USC is college football royalty, even if the shine on the crown has faded over the last decade. It's a program that should be winning the Pac-12 regularly and competing for national titles. It's an absolute farce that the College Football Playoff has existed for seven seasons and USC hasn't reached it once let alone been in legitimate contention for it late in the season. If Michigan State and Washington can pull it off, you would think a program with 11 national titles to its name could figure out a way.
But it hasn't. USC has grown complacent, and it needs to shake things up to bring the program back to where it belongs.
Helton might be an excellent leader and molder of men, and he might even be a good football coach, but he's not the right coach for USC. Worst of all? He never has been. USC needs to look at what the programs that compete for national titles have done and follow suit. Hell, it should just look North within its conference at what Mario Cristobal is doing at Oregon.
It's all so straightforward, even if it's challenging to pull off. Competing for national titles begins with acquiring the most talent and then coaching that talent. The greatest coach in the world isn't competing with inferior players. They are the priority.
USC's recruiting rankings in the Helton era have been disappointing. In Helton's first four seasons, when he won a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 title, USC strung together classes ranked among the top 10 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings. The last four years, the Trojans have hauled in one top-10 class, and that's their current crop of freshmen. USC's 2020 class ranked 64th nationally, hanging out in the rankings with Duke and Boise State. The 2022 class currently ranks 29th in the 247Sports Composite. It's just not good enough. Not for a program located in one of the most talent-rich recruiting areas of the country.
That's why USC needs to find a coach who understands the importance of putting recruiting it first. That's what Cristobal has done at Oregon to help shake that program out of the doldrums and get it back to relevancy. That's what Urban Meyer did at Ohio State and Ryan Day has continued to do after taking over. It's what Lincoln Riley has done at Oklahoma, Kirby Smart at Georgia and Dabo Swinney at Clemson. It's what Nick Saban did at both LSU and Alabama.
These are the kind of coaches USC has appeared tentative to hire, but it simply must if it wants to remain viable as a college football power. USC needs a coach who understands the power of name, image and likeness rights, especially how those can be accentuated by playing for a program in Southern California. USC is uniquely set up to thrive in the NIL era thanks to its entertainment and media industry ties. It may be able to offer opportunities to athletes unmatched by most other schools.
... or USC can keep doing what it's been doing and just hope we all get so used to the Trojans failing that we stop noticing after a while.
Marriage Proposal of the Week
Since we're on the subject of formerly dominant programs in shades of red and yellow that have lost their way recently, it only makes sense we head to Tallahassee, Florida. That's where, a week after Florida State nearly pulled off an upset of Notre Dame and had me telling you to buy stock in the program, we find the Seminoles losing at home to Jacksonville State. And it's not just that the Seminoles lost but how they lost.
Still, it's not all bad. A Florida State offensive lineman Brady Scott figured out a way to turn a low point into a high one, proposing to his girlfriend on the field after the game. According to Scott's Instagram, she said yes. May their lives together be as easy and rewarding as a Saturday evening stroll through the Florida State secondary.
Stock Advice of the Week
BUY -- Arkansas: Listen, Sam Pittman, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. I learned my lesson. After the Razorbacks were a surprise in 2020, I thought there'd be a step back this season as the team faced a reset of sorts. Instead, the Razorbacks are 2-0 and ranked No. 20 in the AP Top 25 after beating Texas 40-21 on Saturday. The Hogs fell behind Rice 17-7 in their season-opener last week but have outscored opponents 71-21 since. Things are going to get a lot more difficult soon. After Georgia Southern this week, the Razorbacks will have consecutive games against Texas A&M (SEC on CBS), Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn. There will be losses, but we're buying stock because this is a program on the rise.
SELL -- Texas A&M: Now, I'm not saying you should sell all of it, but if you were heavily invested coming into the season, you should offload some of your Aggies stock. I know replacing your starting quarterback during a game can be a difficult adjustment for any offense. Still, the Aggies looked hapless offensively during most of the team's 10-7 win at Colorado after losing Haynes King. If King is out for a while, New Mexico will provide an excellent opportunity for Zach Calzada and the offense to figure things out ahead of SEC play beginning, but I'm having serious doubts about this team as a contender in the SEC West right now.
HOLD -- Iowa State: I know you want to sell, but it's possible not much has changed following Iowa State's 27-17 loss to Iowa. It's the sixth-straight time the Cyclones have lost to the Hawkeyes, and Matt Campbell is yet to hoist the Cy-Hawk Trophy. And it hasn't mattered much to Iowa State. Some people considered the Cyclones a College Football Playoff contender before the season, but those expectations were always too high. Iowa State is a team capable of beating anybody in the Big 12, and that's still the case now. Looking around the rest of the conference, there's no reason to think the Cyclones can't reach the Big 12 Championship again.
Cat of the Week
Miami barely held on to beat Appalachian State 25-23 on Saturday, but the real drama in Hard Rock Stadium took place in the stands as a cat dangled from the upper deck. Thankfully, after the cat rained pee down on everybody from above -- who amongst us wouldn't wet ourselves in that situation -- and lost its grip, it was caught by Craig and Kimberley Cromer below.
Seriously, go back and watch the videos again just to listen to the crowd reaction when Cromer lifts the cat to the sky like its baby Simba.
Bad Omen of the Week
It was probably about the time that poor fella's face hit the concrete that we should have realized Ohio State was going to have a rough day.
Ejection of the Week
Something I didn't expect at the Southern Miss game today. Our tunnel was temporarily blocked off in the 3rd quarter. Was told a woman was giving birth.— Raymond Reeves (@RaymondEReeves) September 12, 2021
The baby was ejected from the game for targeting after officials concluded it led with the crown. OK, terrible jokes aside, it turns out the child was not born inside M.M. Roberts Stadium, but the mother went into labor at the stadium. The family was able to get to the hospital. Still, had the baby been born at the stadium, hopefully, somebody like the Cromers would have been there to catch it.
Actual Targeting Call of the Week
Just in case I haven't already been rough enough on the Trojans, I couldn't finish this column without mentioning that their kicker was ejected on the opening kickoff for targeting. My memory can get hazy at times, but I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever seen a kicker ejected from a game for targeting.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
This is where I feel compelled to remind you that this is my projection of what it will be at the end of the season, not what it should be right now.
Until the next Monday After!