Welcome back everyone. Yes, I disappeared for a long time due to the chaos in my life. It took a season of historically bad stats to bring me out of temporary retirement. I had intended to publish after the UCLA game, but got bogged down by some events leading up to the BYU game. Needless to say, it was an eventful week. Let’s just start it off.
After dropping to a 4-6 record and embarrassing defeat by crosstown rival, UCLA, I decided to examine just how bad the defense was. If you’ve been reading the blog closely, you know by now how few losing records USC has accumulated through the years. Below is a list of all 9 of them dating back to 1957. Why am I cherry picking such an odd year to stop at? 1957? There must be an agenda. Hello, you must be new here. City of Angles has an agenda guarantee or your money back. I’m not compensating you for your time—and neither is USC for all the time I wasted watching this dumpster fire.
|2021||4-8 or 5-7||Clay Helton/Interim Donte Williams||Year 6 of 6|
|2018||5-7||Clay Helton||Year 3 of 6|
|2000||5-7||Paul Hackett||Year 3 of 3|
|1991||3-8||Larry Smith||Year 5 of 6|
|1983||4-6-1||Ted Tollner||Year 1 of 4|
|1961||4-5-1||John McKay||Year 2 of 16|
|1960||4-6||John McKay||Year 1 of 16|
|1958||4-5-1||Don Clark||Year 2 of 3|
|1957||1-9||Don Clark||Year 1 of 3|
As a tangent, there are lots of interesting observations from this. In almost every case, a coach picks up a losing season at USC either within the first two or last two seasons. It seems like they usually build things up or get fired soon after. The only exception to this is Clay Helton…who managed to get one in year three of six and didn’t get fired until he was about to pick up another one in his final year. He is also one of three that is able to show up on the list twice. Legendary coach John McKay took two seasons to work his way up to the four national championships and 9 conference championships he would earn over the remaining 14 years. The other is Don Clark…that had a team that didn’t have scholarship players at certain positions due to severe restrictions on recruiting by the Pacific Coast Conference. That brings me back to the main agenda-pushing…
There was lots of chatter amongst USC circles about 2021 being the worst season since 1957. That’s definitely not true by record, since 1991 had a 3-8 season, but I’m sure it got overlooked. Basically no one on the current team was alive back then (except for Ben Griffiths, maybe a few months old at the time). Even interim coach Donte Williams was only around 9 years old back then. Maybe by some other metric, you could make this argument, but not by wins and losses. So could this season be the worst season since 1991—a 30-year low? Nay, I posit that this may be the worst season of ALL TIME.
It’s a bold statement, but here are my arguments:
USC lost 71% of home games this season (5 of 7), which is tied for second worst number of home losses as the 2000, 1991, and 1935 seasons. The worst was 1957 with 6 of 6 lost. That’s probably why there was a mass exodus at the beginning of almost every fourth quarter this season. Either that or they mistook the lighting of the torch as a fire and proceeded to evacuate to the nearest tunnel like that video keeps telling us to do.
This season had the first home loss to Oregon State since 1960. That’s a nasty 50-year streak that got broken…back before the first person went to space (1961).
It was also the first home loss to Utah in 1916…a whopping 105 years. The record has to say Los Angeles because the last time somebody saw Utah win against USC at home, the Coliseum did not exist yet. That’s because it was a built as a memorial to WWI veterans, which began in 1921 and was completed in 1923. WWI was still ongoing and the US had not even officially entered into the war until December of 1917. Look up significant things that happened in 1916, it’s pretty funny. The previous Utah win against USC at home is in league with “First successful blood transfusion,” “National Park Service created,” and “Rockefeller becomes world’s first billionaire.” I could sit here and make more comparisons to show how absurdly long of a time it has been, but I won’t. We have other stats to harp on.
That UCLA loss was also the most the Bruins have ever scored against USC. The previous high was 48 points in 1996, but it was also a double overtime game. The 62 points allowed ties for the highest points allowed by a USC defense in history (Oregon 2012, ASU 2013). Last, but not least (nothing to do with points is “the least” this season), the 29 point margin of loss is the largest since 1954 (0-34), when UCLA went undefeated and won their first and only national championship (that was split with Ohio State). It was also the season that the Bruins first debuted their powder blue uniforms (I hope you appreciated this tidbit because I had to log into ProQuest to fact check it).
After hammering home (like how just about every team hammered USC at home this season) just how long ago most of this stuff is, I saved one of the best stats for last. By points per game allowed, this is the WORST defense of ALL TIME. That’s all one hundred thirty-three years from 1888 to 2021. When I first crunched this stat out (about a week ago), USC was averaging 32.2 points per game allowed, and still had a chance to not have that dubious distinction.
Their only task would be to hold BYU and Cal to a combined 32 points. Seeing as how BYU already put up 35 points, it’s not only over, but will actually increase the average and pad the stats. Unless Cal somehow puts up at least negative four points, this stat will hold. During my delve into hundred plus years of history, I thought the 1901 season might come close to having a worse scoring defense. The two game schedule had one opponent scoring 45 points, but the average came out to 25.5. Unsurprisingly, the previous high was also Helton-involved at 29.4 ppg allowed back in 2019.
While most of these stats (other than scoring defense) aren’t the worst, they’re pretty damn bad. You could make arguments about the 1-9 1957 season or the 3-8 1991 season as being worse, but neither of them had all these things happen during the same season. As stated before, that 1-9 team also requires some huge asterisks due to the state of the roster. Coach Clark ended up achieving an 8-2 record two years after that 1-9 season before retiring and handing things off to John McKay, so it still seems better than the final season of one of the worst head coaches in USC history.
USC did put up a good fight against 9-2, #13 BYU and was mere yards away from a victory, showing a bit of that “Fight On” attitude again. Perhaps someone whispered to them that LINCOLN FREAKING RILEY would be there soon.
While the season itself sucks, Mike Bohn and Brandon Sosna pulled off one of the greatest coaching search processes of all time. They brought in one of the best prospects that money can pay for right now and simultaneously managed to keep it quiet right up until the end. Who even knew he was a real option?
Personally, I didn’t even think it would be possible to poach a coach from a similar tier school/blue blood such as Oklahoma. While the guy’s resume is short (4 complete seasons), he has never finished outside of the top 10 and his team likely will do so again at the end of this season. He had playoff appearances in each of his first three seasons and four NY6 bowl appearances. There aren’t a whole lot of better active coaches in college football, or just active coaches in general. In the end, even if he isn’t able to win national championships at USC, he should at least move us squarely back into the right position. I can’t really think of any better options that are available. Riley’s offenses will be amazing to watch…the defensive coordinator he’s bringing is a little less exciting. The team will go as far as the defense lets it.
FYI, if you have a moment, you should check out the post-press conference interview with Sosna. He exudes well thought out philosophies, is well-spoken, and provides interesting background to the process. USC better do what they can to keep him for as long as they can.
Anyway, welcome back to all the readers. It wasn’t my best content, but I’ll get back to my old ways as USC now will. Thanks for showing up after the excessively long hiatus. See you all again soon (hopefully).