USC’s Ed Orgeron has done well so far, but can he keep it up?

A win for Coach Ed Orgeron and the Trojans against UCLA on Saturday could further complicate USC Athletic Director Pat Haden's decision on a new coach.
(Jeff Gross / Getty Images)
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Halfway through your story today I got a sick feeling and tossed the sports section into the couch. What exactly would a “big name” coach do for SC that Ed Orgeron can’t do, recruit?

Paul Hovsepian

Hope you’re feeling better and thanks, really, for making it halfway through one of my stories. Some readers can’t make it past the byline.


I’ve also had stories tossed into waste baskets, toilets and landfills. I even had one tossed into a salad, but never into a couch.

My Thursday piece touched some nerves. All I did was suggest USC tank the UCLA game so that it wouldn’t necessarily have to hire Ed Orgeron as the full-time coach.

Athletic Director Pat Haden only has one shot to get this right.

Myopically speaking, Orgeron has done a superb job, but it’s hard to know whether he can sustain this over the long haul.

Remember, Orgeron went 10-25 as the head coach at Mississippi.

USC is in an interesting fix. If the Trojans win out and Haden doesn’t hire Orgeron, he might leave for another head-coaching job. Then you lose Orgeron as a recruiter and defensive line coach.

Choosing Orgeron means Haden risks making a hire based on a small, if not impressive, body of work.

There might be a compromise plan. Orgeron desperately wants to be USC’s coach but hasn’t proved over time that he’s head coach material. Haden could offer Orgeron a one-, or two-year contract and then make a long-term decision.


How strong can the Pac-12 South be if a solid but not top-tier Notre Dame can beat the two best teams in that division? Additionally, while I have a lot of respect for the Sagarin ratings, I have to wonder about placing the Pac-12 South above the SEC West.

Gerry Swider

I don’t know how Jeff Sagarin’s ratings work. He’s an MIT grad and I simply don’t have the mental tool kit it requires to comprehend his methodology. He is the Founding Father of Bowl Championship Series computer indexes. His ratings run weekly in USA Today.

You can go nuts trying to figure Sagarin out because he uses different sets of rankings based, apparently, on the weather. His “regular” rankings this week have Northern Illinois at No. 37, yet the same Huskies are No. 3 in the rankings he uses for the BCS formula.


Sagarin explains, in his “PURE ELO” rankings, that “only winning and losing matters, the score margin is of no consequence.”

Those are the rankings he uses for the BCS, which years ago ordered operators to remove margin of victory from the standings as a condition of remaining part of the BCS formula.


Don’t ask me to explain this. Florida State and Alabama, for example, are Nos.1 and 2 in his regular rankings and “PURE ELO.”

This is “PURE JIBBERISH” to me. However, if Sagarin says the Pac-12 is now the nation’s best conference, why argue?

I didn’t argue when he had the Southeastern Conference at No. 1. The five other BCS computer indexes also believe the Pac-12 is strong.

•Anderson & Hester’s power order is SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference.

•Colley Matrix: SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, ACC.

•Massey has the SEC West as the top division but the Pac-12 as the top overall conference.

•Peter Wolfe rates it SEC, Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC.

•Billingsley is the only guy who doesn’t have the Pac-12 first or second. His order: SEC, Big 12, Pac-12.

You recently had an outstanding column about how the Pac-12 just can’t seem to get a team into the BCS title game. … Do you think Larry Scott will be able to figure out how to position Pac-12 teams for the four team playoff the way Mike Slive figured out how to position the SEC for the BCS title?

Jon Basalone



There is no doubt the SEC has had an easier time getting teams into the BCS title game. Not only has the SEC consistently been the best conference, it also has the built-in advantage of playing only eight league games. That allows every SEC team a chance to add a fourth paycheck win every year.

It also allows key misses every year, more so now that the SEC has expanded to 14 teams. Last year, Georgia won the SEC East without having to play any of the top teams from the SEC West — Alabama, Louisiana State or Texas A&M.;

Georgia nearly ended up defeating Alabama in the SEC title game and playing for the BCS title.

In the new playoff, it is imperative that all five major conferences play nine-game schedules. Every league, except the SEC, is either playing nine or will be by 2016.

The SEC needs to get on board.

What would have happened if Ohio State would have won, like Auburn on a Hail Mary, on the last play of the game? They would have dropped big time in the polls.



Go back and look at Ohio State’s run to the national title in 2002. The Buckeyes won games of 23-19, 19-14, 13-7 and 14-9. They also beat Purdue, 10-6, on a fourth-down play and had the Hail Mary of pass interference calls in the BCS title win over Miami.

Do Southern teams ever leave the South to play any games against worthy teams? And if they never do, is it really a “national” championship?

Frank Neeson

Aliso Viejo

Florida has not left the state for a nonconference game since shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter.


You do understand UCLA lost every big game it had this year. Hard to keep giving them the “almost” pass.

Grant Harris

Sorry, when I hear “almost” pass I can’t help think of Georgia Southern not completing a forward pass in last week’s win over Florida.

But you make a valid, intellectual and reasonable point, which has no place being asked in my weekly mailbag column.

You are wrong on this: UCLA’s comeback at Nebraska was a big-game win.

Todd Graham, to Florida or Texas?

Adam Gould


My money is on both.

Great to see your arm is long enough to pat yourself on the back.

Twitter: @TomKiss64

I have the wingspan of a pterodactyl. This genetic mutation came down on my father’s side from a distant relative who crawled out of the primordial ooze.

No wonder we used to vacation at the La Brea Tar Pits.

So, I can pat myself on the back for picking Stanford to win the Pac-12 North and Arizona State to win the South.

I did pick Alabama to get to this year’s BCS tile game.

But check out nine” through 12 in my preseason top 25 poll: Florida, Northwestern, Texas and Boise State.

Florida and Northwestern have losing records, Texas Coach Mack Brown may get fired and Boise State just lost to San Diego State for a second straight year.


Didn’t you pick Utah to beat Stanford and then not win another game the rest of the year?

Trever Amicone

I did not see that one coming. I also didn’t see Utah losing quarterback Trevor Wilson to a possible career-ending head-trauma issue.

Tell the SEC to play nine conference games instead of Idaho and Chattanooga this late in the season.

Michael Lowery

I just addressed this in another letter. Were you not reading?

Florida State is in the ACC, not SEC, but did play Idaho last week. However, Mississippi of the SEC did play Idaho and won, 59-14.


The SEC also played a team just across the state border from Idaho when Washington State opened the season at Auburn.

Auburn had to hold off two late Washington State drives to get out with a 31-24 win.

I’m not sure what Auburn has accomplished since that Labor Day weekend win, but someone told me the team is playing in a big game this weekend.

Comparatives are always dangerous, but we’ll point out Washington State has lost four other games — all against Pac-12 opponents: 55-21 to Arizona State, 52-24 to Oregon State, 55-17 to Stanford and 62-38 to Oregon.