Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lane Kiffin Was Robbed

Stanford's David Shaw, Pac12 Coach of the Year? You gotta be kidding.

Anybody who follows Pac12 football knows who's the REAL coach of the year--USC's Lane Kiffin. Oregon's Chip Kelly is actually more deserving than Shaw, who fell into a can't-miss situation. The Stanford coach not only inherited a ready-made championship team from Jim Harbaugh but was blessed with an easy schedule for the first seven weeks. But Kelly, acerbic and snippy, aleniates award voters.

So does Kiffin, but with a different set of negatives. He's smug, snooty and whiny. But he also did the best coaching job in the Pac12 this year.

Remember, when the season started, prognosticators forecast a so-so year for the Trojans due to a laundry list of problems. First of all, they predicted, sanctions that removed the team from championship consideration and bowl games would eat away at players' motivation. Also, experts warned, the offense line was weak, the unreliable defense consistently collapsed in the fourth quarter and Kiffin had to rely on too many inexperienced players. What's more, the early suspension of his best RB, Marc Tyler, would damage the running game.

But Kiffin, while antagonizing people right and left, cannily overcame these obstacles. SC did start slowly, with shaky wins over Minnesota, Utah and Syracuse and a loss in Tempe to Arizona State, partly due to rookies suffering road jitters. But then, QB Matt Barkley, with a boost from WR Robert Woods, morphed into one of the top five QBs in the country. Freshman receiver Marqise Lee came from nowhere, blossomed into a star and paired with Woods to form a tandem that terrorized the conference. RB Curtis McNeal became one of the Pac12's better backs and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Lane's dad, polished the rough edges of that unit.

By midseason SC turned powerhouse, losing by a hair to Stanford, whipping Notre Dame in South Bend and then accomplishing the impossible--beating Oregon in Oregon. Right now, SC is not only the best team in the Pac12 but in AP's Top 10. At the end of its season, SC was playing as well as any team in the country. According to bookies, the Trojans would be favored in a game against any team--except LSU and Alabama. At the start of this season, few thought the team would reach this level.

Who's responsible for all this? Lane Kiffin of course. He may be a jerk at times but--and apologies to all SC haters--he really is the Pac12 Coach of the Year.