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Wolf: USC and Clay Helton still not ready for prime time

By in Press Enterprise on December 30, 2017

By Scott Wolf

ARLINGTON, Texas — USC coach Clay Helton constantly points out the Trojans made progress from last year.

Maybe he could tell that to the empty sections where USC fans streamed out of the Cotton Bowl early Friday night after the Trojans lost to Ohio State, 24-7.

Let’s measure USC’s progress in Texas: USC trailed Alabama, 17-3 at halftime at AT&T Stadium in the 2016 season opener. The Trojans trailed Ohio State, 24-7, at halftime of the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

That’s a step forward in Helton’s world, which usually defies logic. USC finished last season ranked No. 3. The Trojans won’t be in the top 10 in this year’s final polls. Is that improvement?

Helton will point to USC winning the Pacific-12 Conference this season as the best indicator of the program’s improvement. But this is a conference that is 1-7 in bowl games and full of mediocre teams.

Just because USC beat a bunch of teams that self-destructed, it doesn’t mean the Trojans were better. I would take last year’s team with Adoree’ Jackson and its nine-game winning streak any day over the 2017 Trojans, who rarely played with the required discipline or consistency.

The problem with evaluating USC is you must ignore the spin from Helton and his coaching staff. They are simply overmatched in prime time. Overmatched on the big stage. Overmatched against quality teams. Outcoached.

There is also little accountability because quarterback Sam Darnold usually rescued USC from oblivion.

When USC fell behind to Ohio State on Friday night, what did Helton bring in these situations? In other words, against a high-quality opponent who does not beat itself, what does he add or influence? The answer is nothing.

USC often looks lackadaisical in these situations. And it doesn’t get a lot of help with coaching. There is an old rule in football that you […]    

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