Has USC underachieved under Pete Carroll?

 

It was one of those comments that when I first heard it my response was: “That’s absurd.”

The comment was made by Mike Lupica on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters.” Lupica was trying to make the point that at the end of the day, USC has actually UNDERACHIEVED under Coach Pete Carroll.

Let’s see:

**–Carroll has been at USC for a little over eight seasons and has won 90 games.

**–He has won or shared seven straight Pac-10 championships.

**–He’s played in the Rose Bowl five times and the Orange Bowl twice in the past seven years.

**–He shared the national championship in 2003, won it outright in 2004, and was within seconds of winning a third straight title in 2005, but Texas and Vince Young had other ideas.

But since 2005, which I believe was his best team with two Heisman Trophy winners (Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart), USC has killed its chances at a national championship with an inexplicable loss to an unranked team. Let us review:

2006: Was ranked No. 2 and lost to UCLA 13-9 on championship Saturday. Florida went to the BCS title game instead.

2007: Was ranked No. 2 and lost to Stanford, a 41-point favorite, 24-23.

2008: Was ranked No. 1 and lost at Oregon State, 27-21, on an unforgettable Thursday night.

2009: Was ranked No. 3 and lost at Washington,  a three-touchdown underdog, 16-15. The week before Washington had snapped a 14-game losing streak.
So what is going on here? Is it a lack of concentration? Do the USC players simply not believe they can lose to these teams and just don’t get ready to play?  You could see last week’s loss t Washington coming. The Trojans won a hard-fought (18-15) victory before over 100,000 fans at Ohio State. Freshman QB Matt Barkley led a game-winning drive that propelled him to instant stardom. But Barkley (injury) couldn’t go at Washington, which has been re-energized under new coach Steve Sarkisian, a former Carroll assistant. It was the perfect storm for USC.

I have people tell me that we in the media over-hype USC as the glamour team in college football. Is there something to that?

My buddy Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com theorizes that we may be watching the beginning of the end for this incredible run by USC. The Trojans have a new quarterback for the second straight year and had to replace nine starters on defense from last season. Is there something to that?

All I know is that for the fourth consecutive year it looks like USC is going to come up one win short of playing for it all and will accept the Rose Bowl as a consolation prize. That’s not bad but for USC fans it has to be getting old.

Is there anything really wrong at USC? Or is this just the nature of college football today? I’m interested in your thoughts.

 

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139 comments Add your comment

Ali Akbar Allah

September 22nd, 2009
8:26 am

If Paul Johnson was at USC, the Trojans wouldn’t have lost to Washington. There isn’t a better big game coach in the land.

Max Sizemore

September 22nd, 2009
8:27 am

USC is considerably better than under previous administration. As Idi Amin once said, Uganda win ‘em all.

Are you that STUPID?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

September 22nd, 2009
8:31 am

Hey Ali, the first big game that Paul Johnson coaches in will be his first. Try winning your own division before you claim Paul Johnson to be the best coach in the land.

Warren Sapp is a baaaaaaaaaad man

September 22nd, 2009
8:33 am

33-17 techmites, more to come later

Atlanta Gator

September 22nd, 2009
8:33 am

The problem for Pete Carroll and his USC Trojans football team is that most years they are so much better than their Pac-10 competition that they start to take the wins for granted. Even a top-10 team can get picked off a by a cellar dweller if they don’t bring their “A” game. Lesser teams live to play Number One — it’s the lesser’s team’s conference championship, bowl game and national championship rolled into one. College football is a game of emotions, and virtually every team can play above their talent level once a season. That’s why true upsets happen, and that’s why they play the games.

BTW, I think Washington may be a pretty decent team this year. Moreover, the Huskies’ win over the Trojans puts LSU’s close win over Washington is a somewhat different light.

JIMBOB

September 22nd, 2009
8:37 am

It’s not like SC has had a huge drop-off in terms of their success. Only one team (or maybe two, when the second team goes undefeated like Auburn a few seasons ago) can finish as the best team in the country. They’ve underachieved only if ‘underachievement’ includes a team that fails to win the title every single season.

If they’ve underacieved, then Richt and almost every coach in the country should be given a pink slip.

Coach Cool

September 22nd, 2009
8:43 am

No way. No how.

Pete Carroll has put the “Spoiled” in the U-niversity of S-poiled C-hildren.

New Year’s in Pasadena getting old? Please.

Let me say two words: Paul Hackett.

Case closed.

Vince Neil

September 22nd, 2009
8:43 am

Nachos is the man. I hung out with him this past Saturday and he drank like 14 beers during the Bama game.

Ron Mexico

September 22nd, 2009
8:43 am

No underachievement, just big game hangovers. Compounded this year by playing a team featuring USC’s former offensive and defensive coordinators, as well as all-everything QB Jake Locker to make things tick. Even with Washington’s recent struggles, with the insight from the coordinators, it was not hard to see that they’d do well against USC this year.

gatorcali247

September 22nd, 2009
8:44 am

As someone closely exposed to the USC program I can say that they have a entitlement chip on their shoulder as if to think that they can waltz in on any given day and beat people. USC players do believe the hype and take on this Hollywood persona of big bad USC. Also the swagger and fear me cus we are USC is no longer there, teams are not afraid of USC anymore.

I got to see USC up close this past spring and predicted them to lose 2-3 games and with Cal and Oregon ahead on schedule I may not be far off that mark.

Alfonzo S. Tangerine

September 22nd, 2009
8:45 am

You shouldn’t have been so surprised, Tony. If you look up “absurd” in the dictionary, there’s a picture of Mike Lupica (and a reference to Ole Miss’s AP ranking, but that’s another topic).

GeezusDawg

September 22nd, 2009
8:49 am

I think you would be remiss in not mentioning the fact that Pete Carroll has also lost several of his coordinators over the years too; that’s the price of a successful program. I don’t think they have under-achieved; they have just hit some gaps with folks leaving early.

BugKiller

September 22nd, 2009
8:49 am

Are you stupid??? Yeah, man, look in the mirror and ask yourself that question. You’ve been had by obvious sarcasm.

PT

September 22nd, 2009
8:51 am

Hey Ali your comment on PJ is absurd. He has never even been in a BIG game

im4bama

September 22nd, 2009
8:55 am

It’s over for USC’s reign in the media and voter’s eyes and I’m glad to see it. For years, all they had to do was go through that cupcake conference without losing, not even have to play a conference championship game and they would always be playing for the BCS title.
That always pissed me off because of what the SEC teams have to go through to get to the big game.

It is no doubt over for USC. Neuheisal and Sarkisian will both be getting some of those talented recruits that USC has been stockpiling all these years and now the playing field will be level. Plus, losing both your offensive and defensive coordinators is a big thing to overcome. Oddly, the media isn’t really addressing that about USC but should be. I had forecasted that Cal would beat USC, but Washington beat them to the punch. Oh well. It’s all good because I don’t have to hear about USC, Carrol or Barkley anymore this year. I will say one last thing; I am dissapointed that Bama or Florida won’t get a chance to play them for the BCS Championship, because an SEC team would have torn them a new one.

SimpleDawg

September 22nd, 2009
8:56 am

TB,

The landscape of college football is changing every year. The 85 scholarship rule has had a dramatic impact on college football in general, and on the traditional powers in particular.

The talent is getting spread out more and more each year. These talented freshmen players are more interested in going to a school where they can play early and “show their wares”, as opposed to going to an established program where they can be assured of being a member of a championship contending team, but maybe not playing for a couple of years.

Coaches can no longer scholarship players to avoid facing them as an opponent. It is beginning to be the “Law of Greater Numbers”….there’s more very talented players than there is room at the traditional powers to stockpile them. Being in a “Hotbed” of talent no longer assures that the big state school will get most of the talent, or even the best talent.

It’s a brave new world….see the rise of Boise State, Utah, Rutgers, Okie State, Texas Tech; occasionally Oregon, Oregon State, and the resurrection of BYU, Ole Miss, Miami, Ga. Tech, etc.

quaildawg

September 22nd, 2009
8:58 am

I beleive that the level of competition has been down for so long in the PAC 10 that when USC, under Carrol, was trying to re-emerge they were hungery as a group, now they play to the level of the competition w/in the conference and that has not been very good for some time. They are head and shoulders above any other team in the PAC10 but complacency has robbed them of that killer instinct they once had (see Aub,Neb,VA,OSU,AR).

Bama Aaron

September 22nd, 2009
8:58 am

I don’t think USC has under achieved. They’ve had let downs after bigs wins, and you can’t win them all.
But I don’t think they’ll be accepting any Rose Bowl bid this year. They’ve still got 1, possibly 2 losses left this season. Even USC has to rebuild occasionally.

Tony, Tony, Tony...

September 22nd, 2009
8:59 am

…get a better editor – “and lost to Stanford, a 41-point favorite” – I believe Stanford was a 41 point UNDERDOG!

Miles

September 22nd, 2009
8:59 am

Only at a handful of schools (USC included) will a one loss season be less than satisfactory.

quaildawg

September 22nd, 2009
9:03 am

Come on Ali meant “big” as in Jax ST, Gardner Web, Duke.

Fleischman in Chattanooga

September 22nd, 2009
9:03 am

meet me in the bathroom

1L

September 22nd, 2009
9:04 am

Why does everyone have to qualify the 2005 loss? They LOST THE GAME!!! Just because Vince Young played out of his mind doesnt mean that the trojans should get an asterisk beside the loss.

But at least you dont just give them the 2003 national title. Most people just give them the first title, when everyone and their mother knows that year LSU won the BCS national Championship.

Gen Neyland

September 22nd, 2009
9:09 am

Ali Akbar : Stick to goat herding and try not to think anything football.

The hotbeds of football talent, due to sheer population numbers and love of the game, has California, Texas, Florida and Georgia ranked among tops in the country. Carroll stays close to home in recruiting and IMHO, it doesn’t benefit him the same as it does programs in the other states mentioned for some reason. I can’t put a finger on it. Looking at his teams over the years, he has turned out some darn fine players at the college level and moved many up to the pros. Personally, I don’t know how he ever loses a game but he finds a way…

UGASlobberknocker

September 22nd, 2009
9:09 am

USC hasnt underachieved..its just that the natl media wants so badly to put them on a pedestal that when they lose there is overreaction from those same prognosticators who want to make their bad analysis seem less so.

USC’s problem is that in a crappy conference, they lose their edge playing so many bad teams..all of whom can beat you if strange things happen (such as the starting QB going down and the other team playing out of their shoes for the first time in 20 yrs.) The SEC champion always almost always loses 1 game..it isnt considered as bad because the conference is so much better, If the SEC champ loses one game to say, Georgia or LSU..that is a lot better than losing to Wash or Stanford.

Since USC cant change conferences, they’d best seek out a quality SEC opponent home and home every single year instead of traveling east to play an ACC team. They need 2 quality non conf opponents every years ,given the 9 game PAC 10 schedule, to get past this problem.

David

September 22nd, 2009
9:09 am

If you want to talk about underachievers… look at FSU’s run from 1988 until 2000-whatever… only 2 titles.

Joe

September 22nd, 2009
9:10 am

I think we see why Carroll was so upset with Mark Sanchez for leaving early. It wasn’t that Carroll thought that Sanchez was not ready, it was that he knew he would have to endure a tough season this year without Sanchez at QB.

Column is interesting, Tony, but you and I both know that if USC cakewalks through the Pac-10, at the end of the season all the pundits will point back to the U-dub loss and say it was because Barkley did not play.

I would not be shocked if USC somehow finds their way back into the MNC/BS talk by the end of the season.

honest_abe

September 22nd, 2009
9:11 am

lol if carroll was the coach at uga the fans would’ve ran him out by now. usc has either the #1 or #2 recruiting class every year. the fact that they are losing to some of the bottom feeders of the pac 10 are more than enough reason to fire someone.

the coaches coach. the players play. sure he probably could’ve done somethings differently last week. but it was his qb that couldn’t convert a 3rd down. not his coordinator, not him.

Dawg from DC

September 22nd, 2009
9:11 am

Pi$$onaDawg, you must be #120, god what has this world come too. Can’t even read an article and have a conversation with being rude. Are you kin to Kanye?

honest_abe

September 22nd, 2009
9:12 am

that was sarcasm for those of you not bright enough to know

joe joe

September 22nd, 2009
9:12 am

USC has one Crystal Ball. Fla & LSU have two.
Is Carroll an underachiever, I would say no but he sure gets a lot of mulligans.
His talent level is head over heels better than what else is in his conference unlike SEC teams where it is more balanced.

Eric

September 22nd, 2009
9:13 am

It’s the nature of the beast….you can’t win ‘em all. Even the last 2 NC have had losses. As for nachos, I think he’s the nachos that have already been eaten and are now floating in the rtr bowl. WDE!!!

honest_abe

September 22nd, 2009
9:14 am

you have to ignore pi$$… everyone that blogs on ajc know’s he’s a techie. a rude, obnoxious, immature one at that.

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

September 22nd, 2009
9:16 am

Perhaps USC hasn’t underachieved, but Pete Carroll surely gets a free ride from the national media. Imagine the uproar if Mark Richt, Urban Meyer or Nick Saban lost every year to Miss. State, Vandy or Kentucky. Pete’s good looks and openness with the press assures that he’ll never be criticized by the Tony Barnharts of the world.

Howard

September 22nd, 2009
9:16 am

Tony…the mainstream sports media…not you…love the Pac-10 and the Big-10 and always salivate about those two conferences supplying the two teams for the BCS title game. Look at what’s happening now…Penn State number six?? Come on…it’s just to keep a Big 10 team near the top in hopes Joe Pa and his over-rated bunch run the tables. It’s always about USC, Ohio State and Penn State it seems…used to be Michigan and Notre Dame in there too, but they’re rebuilding. Oklahoma took their places as one of their favorites. I feel if teams are gonna be in the BCS game, then their conferences need to have conference title games…like the ACC, SEC and Big-12. USC and Penn State can be over-rated but they’re always gonna be rated near the top because their leagues have no title games. Oh, Cal has been elevated as the best great hope for the Pac-10…the media is now dreaming of Cal-Penn State. Their worst nightmare?? Texas vs. Florida!! Big-12 vs. SEC would drive them crazy…esp., with teams sporting quarterbacks that are great role models and Christian kids!!

BankerDawg

September 22nd, 2009
9:19 am

**–He shared the national championship in 2003, won it outright in 2004, and was within seconds of winning a third straight title in 2005, but Texas and Vince Young had other ideas.

First, can we please stop perpetuating this myth that the Trojans shared the title in 2003? There is no sharing in the BCS era. It is the BCS National Championship Game….if you’re not playing in it, you can’t win it. Come on, Tony. Enough is enough.

Regarding Carroll underachieving, certainly a case can be made.

With all the vast amounts of 5 star talent, he has guided USC to one (yes, ONE) title with perhaps the easiest path each year…A PAC 10 schedule and no conference championship game.

He continues to trip up every year….Oregon State twice, Stanford, Washington, etc…losing to inferior teams has cost him dearly.

I do believe he has underachieved, as crazy as it may seem.

athensdawg

September 22nd, 2009
9:24 am

who cares what dennis dodd, mike lupica or whomever else writes.
what matters is what happens on the field.
USC is a great program and has been an elite team the past 10 years.
they lose to washington and all the sportswriters want to dump on them.
typical. and, because there is no “big game marquee matchup” this weekend, they spend their time arguing about whether or not it is “over” for use. We have to endure this until saturday…..

Dennis Dodd “USC is finished.”
Tony Barnhart : “No they are not”
Lou Holtz: “Yes they are, Notre Dame will run the table to win the National Championship.
Mark May: “Lou, you are insane.”
Herbstriet: “They are not in the big ten so they are irrelevant.”
Corso: “Not so fast, my friend. USC beat a big ten team, so they must be considered a national title contender.”
Rocket: “We beat them at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is better.”
Jim Donnan: “Had they not run me off at UGA, I would have beaten pete carroll heads up….if i didn’t leave to take the (insert college looking for coach) job first.”
Spencer Tillman: “Let me fix my eye makeup….”

dan

September 22nd, 2009
9:25 am

Maybe now everyone can see why Carrol was so upset at Sanchez leaving early. I can assure you it had nothing to do with his belief Sanchez wasn’t ready for the NFL.

And since when is it a given USC will make the Rose Bowl as a consolation. My guess is they will lose to Cal and possibly Oregon considering Carrol’s record on the road in Oregon. No QB = No offense. They are a top 20 team, but not a top 5 team, I don’t care what their school name is.

PTC DAWG

September 22nd, 2009
9:26 am

To be short and concise on Tony’s question…NO…

And the first poster about Paul Johnson cracks me up. Thanks for the laugh on a day where so many in the Atlanta area are suffering.

UGASlobberknocker

September 22nd, 2009
9:29 am

I agree with Howard above, but Penn State at #6 is no more of a joke than Ole Miss at #4.

PMC

September 22nd, 2009
9:29 am

Absurd question from Lupica. USC has NEVER EVER been as good as they have been under Pete Carroll. National Championships are a crapshoot.

They have gone anywhere and beaten the brakes off of every good team they’ve played. They’ve also managed to slip up and lose to inferior talent. This is not really the coaches fault. This is the nature of college children. It’s the same reason teams like Alabama lose to inferior Utah teams in bowls. They don’t really care about playing Washington or Oregon State… You can scream at them until you are blue in the face but you can’t make them be ready if they won’t focus.

USC wasn’t using thier recruiting advantage until Carroll got there. They were lackluster and boring most of the 80’s and 90’s.

Every year his teams peak at the end and the bowl game. It took a superhuman effort by Vince Young to beat them in the Championship game and he was one of the greatest big game college athletes of all time… not to mention the media hype all over USC that Texas had heard for a month.

Dawgday

September 22nd, 2009
9:30 am

Since 2001 USC is 6-0 in bowl games against the big ten. 1-1 against other conference (big 12).

I believe USC is catching the virus that has been sweeping through the Big Ten. Lack of competition is making them soft. USC is a great program, but because they walk through the PAC 10 every year, they get rewarded with another Big Ten blowout in the Rose bowl. The Big Ten has refused to play a conference championship and are stuck in the past and it’s killing their conference. The big 12, SEC, and yes even the ACC will pass them by because of tougher competition and a championship game. USC will continue to go the way of the Big Ten and Notre Dame.

David

September 22nd, 2009
9:32 am

He has lost more assistant coaches to other schools and the NFL then any other head coach in the country. I think he is going threw an adjustment this year. More then likely he will run the table and go back to the Rose Bowl as PAC-10 champ.

PMC

September 22nd, 2009
9:32 am

Penn State has played…. Akron, Syracuse and Temple and they are awarded with a top 5 ranking.

I don’t care if you are a dyed in the wool Nittany Lion…. that’s embarassing. With Jewel Hampton out at Iowa they only really play perhaps 2 or 3 games worth viewing out of 11 and they should be ashamed at thier football programs lack of courage.

The only team stupid enough to stay in cover 1 for an entire half vs USC.

The question...

September 22nd, 2009
9:36 am

…should not have been “has Pete Carroll” underachieved, but who else has underachieved (based on BankerDawgs rationale), including Mack Brown at TX, Bob Stoops at OK, and Jim Tressel at Ohio State, since all of these guys have won MNC in the past 10 years and have played, or been closing to playing, on other occasions. We have to leave UF and LSU out since they have won 2 each in the past 10 years..But, we have to consider UGA since they choked a big one last year – and annually lose to UF despite having good recruits year in and year out!

DawginTex

September 22nd, 2009
9:36 am

Expectation and pre season rankings TOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO high!!!!!!!
If you lose 8 or 9 starters on def and have a new qb coming in who has no experience, you should NOT BE RANKED #3…………. This seems to be a growing trend..
If you lose your starting QB from the year before, you should not be ranked in top 5.
Speaking of rankings and getting too much love . How does USC lose to an unranked team and drop only 7 spots !!
Here is one reason why: voters did not want to put them below Ohio state , who they beat………… New RULE.. IF one or more weeks have passed it is OK to rank a team lower than a team they previously beat.
However, if it is the same week…………. You can’t have BYU ranked ahead of FSU, after FSU crushed them THAT week.

Wonderdog

September 22nd, 2009
9:39 am

Ali- another closet dog

kj

September 22nd, 2009
9:40 am

Tony,
Maybe you should read Jeff Schultz colmun today. Comment on Meyer for once and not on your Lane Kiffin Crusade. Great call on Vols would get killed. I was there and the crowd came out sounding like they lost.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 22nd, 2009
9:41 am

Your gut reaction was correct. That’s absurd. Same thing goes in Columbus, Ohio, Athens, Ga. and Norman, Okla.

SimpleDawg

September 22nd, 2009
9:42 am

“It’s not about the X’s & O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and the Joe’s.”

True enough, unless your Jimmy’s and Joe’s are inferior in speed and skill. A great coach can’t scheme average players into a great team, but a poor coach can scheme great players into an average team.

The Holy Trinity of football: Player Talent, Coaching, Team Chemistry. You can go undefeated with a strong base of each, you can win 75% of your games with the right mix of 2 out of 3, but you’ll be lucky to half of your games with only 1 out of 3.

The Dawgs haven’t been able to perfect the mix….yet.