If I told you one year ago that between Joe Paterno and Lane Kiffin one coach would be unceremoniously dismissed in scandal while the other would be credited with reviving a powerhouse program...
Funny how quickly things can change.
Credit to Kiffin and the coaching staff for getting the team to play with maximum effort in the second half of the season. Following the loss to Arizona State and with contests looming at Notre Dame, Stanford and at Oregon the Trojans could have easily imploded. Instead USC, led by Heisman contender Matt Barkley, played with brilliance and toughness the rest of the way. Only a triple-OT loss to Stanford would be the only blemish in the second leg of the 2011 campaign, which included upsets at South Bend as well as at Eugene and culminated in last night's 50-0 bulldozing of crosstown UCLA.
Even with no possibility of playing for the Pac-12 Championship or bowl game the Trojans performed with tenacity and precision not seen since the Pete Carroll glory days (ironically those times are what led to the current sanctions against the team. But I digress). Monte Kiffin should feel especially vindicated as the linebackers and secondary gelled and USC's defense "zoned" in on opponents.
I think most USC fans coming into the season would have considered 10-2 (with wins against the Irish and Bruins) a roaring success. While 2011 will be remember with sunny fondness 2012 is looking a lot murkier. Juniors Matt Barkley, Matt Kalil, TJ McDonald and Nick Perry all projected to jump to the NFL. But in his sophomore year as head coach Lane Kiffin proved the doubters wrong. The football monopoly in LA isn't going anywhere.