Read More »
But that doesn’t happen in a day. Fans are right that things need to change because the College Football Playoff should be this team’s ultimate goal. But head coach Clay Helton is probably not the person that will bring the Trojans to that level. The program needs to find an offensive line coach who can recruit the position better. The entire team needs to be instilled with a greater regard for discipline. All of these things and many more need to happen for fans’ justified wishes to be met. But let’s call this game what it was: A team that went 5-7 last season lost its true freshman quarterback’s first road game to a decent team in a challenging environment. If I had told USC fans that the team would dominate its second biggest rival and then narrowly lose on the road to a team like BYU, I don’t think they would have the reaction they’re having now. Because this game came in the aftermath of a shockingly enjoyable win that gave fans outlandish expectations, losing to BYU — who actually hung tight with No. 10 Utah through three quarters Week 1 — seems like doomsday. The game was frustrating. Slovis threw three costly interceptions, including a horrible throw into traffic in overtime that was deflected and intercepted, sealing the loss when an incompletion would have given kicker Chase McGrath a field goal opportunity from close range to extend the game. The defense withered in its first day game, appearing gassed to the point of incompetence by the second quarter. One of my roommates (who knows nothing about football) said hours after the game, “I can’t believe we lost, but this reminds me of the Washington State game from our freshman year [in 2017]. We also had a young quarterback in a tough road game, and we went on to win the Pac-12 Championship. I believe we’ll do that again.” Here’s the truth: These are the types of games that happen to a program of USC’s current caliber. Teams that eke into the Top 25 in the third week lose road games to less talented but still good opponents. Young teams lose on the road. The problem isn’t that USC didn’t play like a national championship contender, it’s that the fans had expectations that it would. Aidan Berg is a junior writing about sports. He is also an associate managing editor for Daily Trojan. His column, “Berg is the Word,” runs every Monday. USC is a historically great program with a blue blood mentality. The University claims 11 national championships, and the NCAA credits it with nine, which is tied for sixth most championships of all time. After dominating throughout the Pete Carroll era in the 2000s, the Reggie Bush-O.J. Mayo athletics scandal set the program back, and the team has spent this entire decade trying to regain that level of glory to no avail. Judging by the fanbase’s expectations, though, you’d think that USC was supposed to be a national title contender every season. Yes, the loss was unacceptable, but it’s also one game. This team has shown more in the past three weeks than it did all of last season. It’s making progress. Instead of a sudden jump to contender status, USC fans should look for the steady improvement that suggests this program can return to the mountaintop in the future. It’s time for fans to accept that USC is much closer to the middle tier of college football than the elite. A return to the top is always the goal, but it’ll be a lot better for everyone’s sanity if we can all be realistic in the meantime. I’m tired of the massive mood swings the fanbase experiences from week to week and of students acting like they’ve followed this team from birth when it wins and being completely disinterested when it loses. Following the loss, a friend told me that redshirt junior quarterback Matt Fink should be the starter. Seriously. I pressed him about how he could be so stupid as to call for Slovis’ replacement a week after he had one of the best performances in Trojan history. His response? “We lost to BYU. If you didn’t notice.” Trojans fans are incredibly polarized; they’re either happy and boastful about everything, or they whine and complain about all aspects of the program. There is no in-between, and that’s why the Stanford victory wasn’t the all-encompassing triumph many fans made it out to be. It built insane expectations for what this team could accomplish this season, all of which came crashing during the Trojans’ 30-27 overtime loss to BYU in Provo Saturday. The optimism is good-hearted but just as foolish as claiming the defeat is the end of the world. It’s a lot to expect a team that was just bowl ineligible and lost its starting quarterback for the season to win the conference championship, especially with talented teams like Utah, No. 16 Oregon and No. 22 Washington in the conference. These sort of all-or-nothing reactions destabilize the fanbase, and to some extent, the program, too. It’s good that fans have high aspirations, but they have to understand that it takes time to build a program that fits their view of what USC should be. USC football’s 45-20 victory over Stanford last week was a dominant effort, a stunning introduction of freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis and maybe the worst thing that could’ve happened to the Trojan fanbase. That last part sounds crazy, but hear me out. Heralded offensive coordinator Graham Harrell was curiously conservative throughout the second half, seeming to call runs on every first and second down and leaving Slovis with some difficult third down situations. And let’s not forget special teams, which frequently gave Slovis the ball with terrible field position.