Clay Helton reveals his unrealistic expectations for USC football this year

USC head coach Clay Helton. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)
USC head coach Clay Helton. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports) /

USC football head coach has always been upfront about the expectation of winning championships for the Trojans. This year, that’s particularly unrealistic.

Clay Helton has set his sights on a championship for USC football in 2021.

The goal? Win the Pac-12 Championship because that will open doors to make it into the College Football Playoff, which is the path to winning a national championship.

Seems simple enough, right? It’s obviously not, which is the problem.

It’s never been that Helton doesn’t understand the expectations USC football fans have. It’s that he can’t seem to reach them despite his upfront and earnest attempts to do so.

Clay Helton’s expectations for USC football in 2021 are unrealistic

At Pac-12 Media Day on Tuesday, the Trojan head coach said all the right things.

“When you’re at a place that’s won 11 national championships, you know the standard of excellence and you know what’s demanded,” Helton continued. “We welcome that. We welcome it as players, we welcome it as coaches. That’s why we all came to USC.”

He acknowledged how making it to the Pac-12 title game last year wasn’t enough because the Trojans ultimately lost to Oregon, 31-24.

“Other programs may have other standards. It’s not what we’re about here. That’s the beauty of USC, is not only being in that championship game but winning it. That’s why we work so hard at what we do to be back there and to win it,” Helton said.

USC may very well be back in the Pac-12 Championship game in 2021. The preseason media poll set them as the favorites to win the Pac-12 South. However, Oregon is still favored to win the conference. It’s only fair. They’ve had USC’s number in their last two meetings.

The men of Troy have their work cut out for them just to meet that minimum requirement of winning the South.

Sure, they have the conference’s best quarterback in Kedon Slovis. However, protecting their injury-prone passer is a worry. No offensive lineman landed on the All-Pac-12 first or second-team even though USC has four returning starters in that unit. It’s not an oversight either. Without first-round draft pick Alijah Vera-Tucker, the offensive line looks astoundingly lacking.

Even thinking about the playoff for this season would require drastic improvement across the board.

The gulf between USC and actual playoff contenders like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson is enormous. The Trojans boast exciting stars with All-American potential like Drake London and Drake Jackson. The Crimson Tide, Buckeyes and Tigers are loaded with just as much skill position talent while also featuring dominant offensive and defensive lines. Right now, there’s no comparison.

If a championship is the expectation, prepare to be disappointed.

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