By My Count Clay Helton's Days Appear Numbered; Clemson Dodges A Big Bullet

Chris Dufresne

By my count it was exactly six years ago Saturday, in 2013, that USC Coach Lane Kiffin lost at Arizona State and was fired shortly after the team landed back home in Los Angeles.

Who will forget the song playing in the LAX terminal: Tarmac the Knife.

We’d like to report that five-alarm canning led to a holistic and aerosol-can cleansing of USC football, but here we are again.

Clay Helton’s nice-guy tenure at USC is back on the clock after a 28-14 defeat at Washington in which nearly all the equity gained during last week’s home win over Utah was squandered.

Helton is now 4-7 in his last 11 games and Trojan fans were back on the #FireHelton rampage.

“Piss-poor play calling, clown school coaching…”

“…in the name of all that is good and holy about USC football can we finally Fire Helton?”

“only one man can turn this dumpster fire around…”

The clarion calls for Urban Meyer are growing louder, even if USC President Carol Folt’s first task is to hire a new athletic director.

There seem only two scenarios now in which Helton can save his job, and he might have to do both:

One: Defeat top-10 Notre Dame in two weeks at South Bend. That would put the Trojans back in the top-25 with a 4-2 record.

Two: WIN the Pac 12 championship. USC, remember, still holds a tie-breaker over Utah in the Pac 12 South.

Winning the South, however, might not be enough. USC has to WIN the Pac 12.

Helton was already threading that needle of hope as he spoke of meeting Washington again in the Pac 12 title game.

Wonder how many USC fans, desperately seeking regime change, really want that to happen?

This may be the window of opportunity to land free-agent Meyer, who looks tanned and rested as he watches over USC like a FOX analyst in a hen house…

USC fans have a right to be tired of Helton’s same old “we’ll get that fixed” post-game excuses.

Yes, he's playing with a third-string quarterback who played like one on Saturday. But keep in mind the coach USC fans have in mind, Meyer, won a national championship at Ohio State with a third-stringer (Cardale Jones).

“I love the way those guys competed,” is a line Helton has repeated over and over after sloppy, mistake-filled performances.

He said it again Saturday. The question now: how many more Saturdays will he get to say it?

By my count Clemson lost its No. 1 ranking--but saved its season—with a shaky 21-20 win at unranked North Carolina.

The Tar Heels were coming off a loss to Appalachian State.

Mack Brown did the right thing in going for two instead of tying the game in the final minutes. His undermanned Tar Heels deserved the chance to win, or lose, on that two-point conversation attempt.

What was the sense of tying the game and giving Clemson the ball with a minute left?

And while North Carolina will kick itself for getting stuffed on the two-point attempt, a sequence played-out earlier in the quarter will also haunt Sunday’s film session.

In a 14-14 game, North Carolina had second-and-one at the Clemson 45 and got stopped three times…

Plays of incomplete, run for zero and run for zero handed the ball back to Clemson, which raced downfield to take the lead at 21-14.

Clemson avoided its first regular-season loss in two seasons and likely dodged the biggest bullet it will dodge until December.

That kind of loss, in a weakened ACC, could have cost Clemson a playoff spot in certain scenarios.

End result? Just win baby.

By my count UCLA did exactly what I thought it might do one week after an emotional win at Washington State. It lost. UCLA has a history of thinking it is better than it is even when it is 1-3. The Arizona game was a trap on several counts: It was a road game AFTER a road game, certainly not easy. Another tell: UCLA players started classes this week while Arizona has been settled in since late August. Still, you'd think the Bruins might prevail against a team missing its starting quarterback and tailback...I HATE freezing the opposing kicker unless it works, so kudos to Arizona Coach Kevin Sumlin for calling time out before J.J.Molson's field goal that would have tied the game. Molson's second attempt was wide right...

By my count the Pac 12 ran out of undefeated teams on Sept. 27 and that pretty much put to bed the league's four-team playoff. The problem isn’t that it happened but that it was so predictable. The only surprise was Cal being the last unbeaten standing as it hosted Arizona State on Friday night in Berkeley. No way the Bears were going undefeated, anyway, so maybe it was best to get defeat over with early. It was disheartening to see another Pac 12 quarterback go down and there is no doubt that the left-shoulder injury Chase Garbers suffered sealed Cal's fate against ASU...His backup, Devon Modster, the transfer from UCLA, did not look good in relief. “Honestly I thought I played terrible,” Modster said.

By my count the conference's path to the playoff was deeply disturbed by Clemson NOT losing to North Carolina on Saturday. You can still piece a long-shot scenario in which Oregon hangs tight so long as the Ducks and Auburn keep winning. The Auburn team Oregon should have defeated in Week 1 improved to 5-0 with a crushing win over Mississippi State. Here’s the problem: Oregon still has to play at Washington, at USC and at Arizona State while Auburn still has to play at Florida, LSU, Georgia and Alabama. Good luck finding a playoff path for either Oregon or Auburn.

Washington, conceivably, still has a chance but the Huskies may be forever spooked by the one-point home loss to Cal. The Pac 12 is so collectively haunted it should be investigated by Ghost Hunters…

By my count “Don Brown’s defense” at Michigan always looks great against Rutgers…Rankman’s best pull of the season was predicting Michigan would shut out Rutgers and cover the 28-point spread…Thank you very much. The final score was 52-0.

By my count Rutgers has now been shut out nine times since joining the Big Ten by the cumulative score of 441-0…The only Big Ten school that had a worse weekend was Maryland, which lost a Friday night home nail-biter, 59-0, to Penn State. Great news though: Rutgers and Maryland play next week….

Comments (10)

No. 1-2

Hey Rankman; who other than Urban Meyer might the Trojans turn to?

Chris Dufresne