Obviously, the big Pac-10 news of the week is Lane Kiffin coming back home to LA to take over a USC program facing the possibility of sanctions and punishment. I feel less sorry for the Vols than most; they knew they were hiring a snake when they got him, so they shouldn't be too surprised that he'd come back to bite them in the ass. Besides, the longer he stayed, the better the chance Tennessee ends up getting embargoed like Cuba by the NCAA, so they're probably better off in the long run. In the short run, Oregon's going to run them over in September, but oh well, them's be the tradeoffs.
Let's turn to what Pac-10 fans care about the most--do you think Lane Kiffin get the Trojans rolling back to the top of college football?
Lane's record is pretty spotty. He's most famous at SC for leaving Reggie Bush on the sideline on 4th and 2 in the National Title game. But Missing Barry believes his coaching abilities based on his record are...inconclusive (although as Beast Mode points out, his ability to maintain a clean shop is pretty conclusive--he can't).
Based on these defects in record and character by the new Trojan HC, can his new staff, including Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron compensate for those issues and help keep USC where they are now?
Further, I've even seen many SC commenters excited that Kiffin's father, Monte, will be bringing with him his Tampa 2 defense, one Conquest Chronicles user commenting that Kiffin is Oregon "worst nightmare" and "they'll be lucky to score 24 points." Pete Carroll ran cover 2 schemes with regularity while at SC, so it won't be that much of a change, other than Kiffin will likely run it even more than Carroll did. And while the cover 2 has a reputation for limiting big plays, its biggest weaknesses are misdirection, runs up the middle, and throws to the tight end-exactly the weapons that the Oregon spread is best designed to use. You could have ran anything with SC's 2008 defense and they would have been successful. But without that kind of veteran talent, the Tampa 2 is a generally undisciplined defense that a good spread option should rip to shreds.
Well, let's take a look at what Monte's defense did at Tennessee in one year: Strong against the pass (ranked 12th in passing yards per game, 9th in passing yards per attempt, 12th in passer rating defense), but very pedestrian against the run (ranked 77th in rushing yards per attempt, 65th in rushing yards per game). Although they managed strong defensive efforts against Tebow and Florida (losing by 10) and holding the national champs to four field goals at Bama (losing by 2), they also got lit up by Ole Miss and Virginia Tech.
It's safe to say Monte will be operating with excellent talent over the next few years, so don't expect too much of an operational change in strategy by the Bears--Cal's starting quarterback is still going to have to throw the ball with great success to beat USC next year, and the ground game will have to get going.
College football is a recruiting game. You get the best talent, your team is likely to perform better.
Oregeron was already gathering top-notch players for Tennessee over two classes, and you can imagine him having a similar impact in the upcoming years. Now obviously Coach O isn't going to work much of his magic this year, and his impact won't be totally felt for another two or three years. But let's not forget this man's resume; the guy can find the best of the best.
Kenechi Udeze (Defensive End, 2004 First Round Pick)
Jacob Rogers (Offensive Tackle, 2004 Second Round Pick)
Keary Colbert (Wide Receiver, 2004 Second Round Pick)
Mike Williams (Wide Receiver, 2005 First Round Pick)
Mike Patterson (Defensive Tackle, 2005 First Round Pick)
Shaun Cody (Defensive End, 2005 Second Round Pick)
Lofa Tatupu (Linebacker, 2005 Second Round Pick)
Reggie Bush (Running Back, 2006 First Round Pick)
Matt Leinart (Quarterback, 2006 First Round Pick)
Winston Justice (Offensive Tackle, 2006 Second Round Pick)
Deuce Lutui (Offensive Guard, 2006 Second Round Pick)
LenDale White (Running Back, 2006 Second Round Pick)
Frostee Rucker (Defensive End, 2006 Third Round Pick)
Dwayne Jarrett (Wide Receiver, 2007 Second Round Pick)
Steve Smith (Wide Receiver, 2007 Second Round Pick)
Ryan Kalil (Center, 2007 Second Round Pick)
Sedrick Ellis (Defensive Tackle, 2008 First Round Pick)
Keith Rivers (Linebacker, 2008 First Round Pick)
Sam Baker (Offensive Tackle, 2008 First Round Pick)
Lawrence Jackson (Defensive End, 2008 First Round Pick)
Chilo Rachal (Offensive Guard, 2008 Second Round Pick)
Fred Davis (Tight End, 2008 Second Round Pick)
Terrell Thomas (Cornerback, 2008 Second Round Pick)
Conquest Chronicles has already written about the disappointing recruiting class of 2006 not panning out...the first class that Oregeron had no part in formulating, as he was busy getting outwitted and outmatched in Ole Miss. Coincidences are fun.
In the podcast last night, CBKWit seems to believe penalties are coming while Berkelium thinks nothing might happen. MGoBlog wrote a philosophical post about how if Kiffin and USC go unpunished, God does not exist. I lie somewhere in the middle--the Trojans will probably get a slap on the wrist in 2010 (a year without a bowl), then go right back to the task of racking up Pac-10 titles.
Remember the end of Lord of War, where gun-dealer Yurli Orlov told Interpol agent Jack Valentine "I'm an evil, but I'm a necessary evil"? Well, the US government is the NCAA and Nic Cage is USC. The two have done so much dirty laundry together that it's impossible to keep one down without having the other suffer business-wise. A sanctioned-USC isn't good business to anyone but the other nine Pac-10 schools, and when has the NCAA ever shown an interest in them?
So yeah: Expect minimum punishment.
How much can Lane replicate Petie?
So that leaves us the final question: Can Kiffin be the same sort of rah-rah kind of guy that attracts young players? While Pete did have youthful exuberance, Lane is actually young as can be (he'll be 35 in March, still the youngest coach in college football). He definitely had Tennessee players fired up this offseason, did crazy things, said stupid shit...at the very least, he's plenty exciting to be around. Young high school players probably like that brashness and swagger since they have plenty of it themselves; couple that with Orgeron's recruiting fingerspitzengefuhl and it could provide that same seductive appeal that had the Trojans going full steam at the beginning of the 2000s.
No one can expect Lane to replicate seven straight Pac-10 titles, two national championships, but if he has even half the success that Carroll did, he's going to be around for quite awhile, to the dismay of everyone else in the conference. Or he could crash and burn and end up leaving Heritage Hall in flames. It's hard to find a middle ground with him, isn't it?
No one has any idea what to expect...kind of like when Pete arrived in 2001. And I'm pretty sure no Cal fans want a repeat of that scenario.