USC Football: How Does Lane's Loss Impact Trojans?
by T.O. Whenham - 10/2/2013
I am going to miss Lane Kiffin. Not as a coach — he was truly terrible at that. And not as a recruiter — he was far better at that than he should have been, and the Trojans this year featured three young stars that seemed destined for my beloved Wolverines at one point or another before Kiffin stole them. Why I’ll miss him is that no matter what is going on in college football, Kiffin always ensured that things weren’t boring. He was a constant source of drama and ridiculousness, and just when you thought he couldn’t get any worse he found a new way to amaze and astound. It was truly remarkable.
Everyone on the planet knew that Kiffin was all but certain to be fired before next season started. It was a bit of a surprise that he was fired already, though — and definitely a surprise that he didn’t even make it back to his office before getting the boot. Now that he got what he so richly deserved handicappers are left with a bit of a puzzle. Ed Orgeron is in charge and the team has a bye week, but that doesn’t make it any easier to predict how the Trojans will respond in the short term or how we should correctly deal with the team as bettors. When trying to figure that out here are five factors to consider:
Public reaction to next week
The public is more invested in the Trojans than in almost any other program in the country — they are a very public team. Normally the team would draw a significant majority of the action at home against Arizona. This is far from a normal situation, though. I suspect that the Trojans will still draw a bit more action than the Wildcats because Kiffin is gone, but it will be very important for bettors to look at what the public does and what that means for the value in that game. Depending on how that game turns out it could be even more important to keep an eye on the public action in the next game at Notre Dame. If USC wins handily then the public could be back on the bandwagon. If they struggle, though, then the public could lose all faith.
How Orgeron reacts
Ed Orgeron is in a tough spot, having to take over a mess while not having any chance at all of being the full time guy regardless of how things turn out. So far he has done things right — opened practices up to the media, promised to be more open about injuries, and generally done as much as he can to quickly distance his tenure from the Kiffin Era. He will inevitably face some adversity going forward, though. How well he responds to that will be a big key in how the team finishes this season. The team could turn things around and finish with pride and strong play. Or they could crumble. That rests largely on the coach, so the coach needs to be closely watched.
The Trojans have faced injury issues, especially at running back and in the secondary. They also had a scare with Marquise Lee. The team doesn’t have the luxury of depth thanks to their scholarship woes, so injuries are more important to keep and eye on here than with other teams.
Response of commits
The reaction of both committed players and recruits who were clearly leaning towards the Trojans will be very telling in the coming weeks. So far the bleeding has been minimized on this front — likely because players had already come to terms with the fact that they likely wouldn’t be playing for Kiffin anyway. If the team doesn’t act professionally and treat those recruits well in the coming weeks, though, we could start to see defections as high profile players look elsewhere while spots at their second choice programs are still available. The status of the recruits, then, will be an excellent secondary indicator of the health of the program in the short term.
Is replacement talk a distraction?
The speculation about who the next coach will be is already out of control, and the program isn’t likely to talk to candidates until later in the season at the earliest. The intensity of the speculation won’t ease if the team struggles, and the feelings of desperation will be intense for fans because they know that another prime job in Texas is likely to come open as well to provide competition. There is no particular reason why the talk of replacements should be a distraction for this team on the field this year because it has no impact on their season. It could become a major distraction nonetheless, though, so we need to keep an eye on it. In particular, the more that Orgeron, his staff or the players face questions about it the more it could become an issue — an unfortunate side effect of opening practices to the media.
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