Say What You Want, but Lane Kiffin Has a Point About USC's Defense

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterFebruary 28, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24:  USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin greets senior quarterback Matt Barkley #7 prior to the start of the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 24, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Notre Dame defeated USC Trojans 22-13.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Yesterday, the college football world got a chance to do one of their most favorite things—point the finger and pile onto Lane Kiffin. His comments defending Matt Barkley over at ESPN LA sparked a fire about how he refuses to take the blame and causes controversy every time he speaks.

Everybody stop.

Did you all watch the University of Southern California play football this year? Did you see a different ballclub than the one I saw?

I ask because if you watched the Trojans that I saw on a week-in, week-out basis during the 2012 season, I'm not sure how you can say that Lane Kiffin is wrong in his defense of Matt Barkley. If Barkley had the elite defenses that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had in their Heisman-winning seasons, then odds are Matt Barkley is a legitimate candidate to be at the ceremony in New York City.

It's likely, following his monster season, that Johnny Football still takes home the hardware, but the point remains that if Barkley's defense could have shown up to get stops, he would have had a shot at the Heisman.

In the rush to do the popular pile-on with Lane Kiffin, people conveniently ignore that the defense absolutely tanked it in the 2012 season. They gave up a boatload of yards, plus another shipload of points, and they came up small in the big moments that USC needed them.

During the regular season, the Trojans dropped five total games. Three of those losses are contests where you can look at the defense and its inability to get stops, get off the field and keep the opponent out of the end zone. The other two can be chalked up to Lane Kiffin's offense and its inability to move the ball.

In real terms, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA are games where you look at all that talent on defense and wonder why the Trojans couldn't get the job done. Stanford and Notre Dame were affairs that showed USC's offense could certainly be stopped.

There's a reason Monte Kiffin is gone, and it isn't because his son is just trying to save himself. The elder Kiffin is out because he showed a continued inability to stop the zone-read game and lacked a general counter punch to tempo-based attacks.

While USC's defensive season numbers are middle of the pack, a look at their regular-season losses shines a spotlight on the problem. In the Arizona, Oregon and UCLA games, the defense gave up a combined 1,742 yards and 139 points. That's only slightly better (yardage-wise) than West Virginia's three biggest losses to Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Syracuse. On the points side of things, in those same games the Mountaineers gave up two fewer points.

So let's not pretend that Lane Kiffin is crazy. After all, Matt Barkley, in 11 games, finished 15th in the nation in passing behind guys that played 12 and 13 contests. The losses are what dropped Barkley off the map. The loss to Stanford hurt, but the Arizona and Oregon contests sank the boat.

Thus, when Kiffin says...

If Matt Barkley had the defense that Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer had, Matt Barkley would have won the Heisman Trophy just like they did. He would have had the winning records they had.

...don't look at the man like he's crazy.