USC Wins But Now It's Crunch Time For Decision On Clay Helton

Chris Dufresne

By my count USC’s 52-35 win over UCLA on Saturday was the worst possible way to simplify Clay Helton’s future as head coach.

What now?

The Trojans are 8-4, looking to move up from No. 23 in the CFP ranking and still not eliminated from the Pac 12 South division race.

This is Nightmare On Exposition Boulevard for the “Helton Must Go” crowd, which wanted the kind of clear-cut resolution that led straight to Urban Meyer.

USC is neither great, nor terrible, rather stuck in a murky middle that can support solid arguments for firing, or keeping, Helton.


It would have been far easier for new AD Mike Bohn had USC lost to UCLA. He could have waited a day and held a press conference on Monday. “We love what Clay has done but we’re going in a different direction,” Bohn could have said.

Instead he’s stuck on a treadmill waiting to see whether USC might play for the Pac 12 title, which would happen if Utah losses at home next week to Colorado.

The question now: will Bohn make a statement soon saying Helton will return, or leave everyone in limbo until the Pac 12 race is resolved?

“I live in the moment and the moment is now,” Helton told ESPN field reporter Molly McGrath after the game.

The "here and now" included Helton hugging Bohn after the game and then Helton giving Bohn a game ball.

That kind of stuff will put a crimp in your plan to fly a prop plane over campus with trailing banner: "Impeach Helton!"

Maybe Bohn's mind is already made up, who knows? Maybe, as you read this, he is walking with Urban on the Manhattan Beach strand.

Whatever might have been planned, though, has to be put on hold for at least as long as it takes the team to sign that game ball for "Good Ol' AD Mike."

Maybe Clay did just enough to earn another year; or not quite enough.

If Helton does return, his Trojans open next season against Alabama.

By my count USC quarterback Kedon Slovis turned in one of the finest passing performances ever produced at the venerable L.A. Coliseum—and that’s saying something when you consider the quarterbacks who have graced its grounds.

Slovis, in victory, completed 34 of 47 passes for a school-record 515 yards with four touchdowns. Granted, he did it against a toothless UCLA defense.

That said, Slovis joined some fine company Saturday. The NFL single-game passing record is still owned by Rams quarterback Norm Van Brocklin who, in 1951, passed for 554 yards against the New York Giants at the Coliseum. In 1985, Jim Kelly of the USFL’s Houston Gamblers set the American professional record when he passed for 574 yards in a win over the Los Angeles Express…

By my count the Pac 12 was counted out of the playoff, again, after No. 6 Oregon suffered a three-point loss at Arizona State. The Pac 12 was also counted out in August, September and October. The Duck defeat certainly kills the possibility of two, one-loss teams meeting for the Pac 12 title. The good news is that No. 7 Utah, playing at Arizona, did not buckle in the desert night. The Utes did the opposite, dismantling an inferior team the way Oregon was supposed to dismantle an inferior team. Utah crushed Arizona, 35-7, allowing a meaningless touchdown in the final two minutes.

Utah is the last Pac 12 team standing--and it's a good one. The Utes should easily defeat Colorado next week and then advance to the conference title game against Oregon. The next few weeks could get dicey, folks, but Utah should be a solid No. 6 in Tuesday's CFP release. The Utes may potentially end up in a fight for No. 4 with current No. 5 Alabama.

Last week, when the SEC thought Oregon was a threat, one of its biggest radio voices tried to smear AD Rob Mullens, who is chair of the selection committee. The SEC will now turn on Utah as an existential threat to Alabama's divine right to be in the playoff. Be prepared, Salt Lake City. It's going to get ugly. Real ugly.

By my count Yale defeated Harvard, 50-43, in double overtime. The game was delayed 48 minutes at halftime by students protesting climate change. We’re all for free speech except in stadiums such as the Yale Bowl, which does not have lights. Overtime plus a 4:27 sunset put the game’s completion in jeopardy, which may have forced Harvard and Yale to file a protest.

By my count here's the final count for SEC Patty Cake Saturday. Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State defeated Western Carolina, Samford, UT Martin, East Tennessee and Abilene Christian by the cumulative score of 251-17. That doesn't seem very Abilene Christian at all...

By my count a person on the Ohio State football sidelines earned $50,000 for his role in defeating Penn State on Saturday in Columbus. Why is the NCAA not investigating? The $50,000 represents the contract bonus Buckeyes’ Coach Ryan Day earned for clinching the Big Ten East...Congratulations to Cal becoming bowl eligible by defeating Stanford for the first time since 2009. Shame on Miami for losing as 20-point favorites to Florida International at Marlins Park, built on the grounds of the old Orange Bowl, where the Hurricanes built a powerhouse that captured five national titles. That seems like a long time ago...


Chris Dufresne