With no postseason hopes, what is USC’s legacy this year?

USC began this season with national championship hopes but already has four losses going into the last regular season game.

LOS ANGELES — It was a Heisman-winning performance, just not in the direction the Trojans imagined when they saw this game on their schedule. For what it’s worth, the game could’ve been a lot worse, considering the firing of their defensive coordinator occurred just this past week, but it was still a pretty incomplete game from the Cardinal and Gold all around. Here are the takeaways from the loss in Eugene.

What Will The Legacy Be?

We’ll assume Caleb Williams will suit up next week and take on the cross-county foe UCLA in what will presumably be his final game as the USC signal caller. What will the legacy Williams leaves behind ultimately be? A player many thought could go down as the most outstanding college player of all time, let alone the greatest in the history of the USC program, departs his college career without a College Football Playoff appearance and PAC-12 title. Though the team will be bowl-eligible, Williams and USC are also in danger of finishing the season outside of the top 25, a shocking notion considering the sky-high expectations to start the year for this club. Where will we rank Williams amongst USC QBs when discussing the program’s history? From a talent perspective, there may not be anyone better, and he could be the first first-overall pick out of USC since Carson Palmer in 2002. But…Can we put him ahead of Matt Leinart? Though Leinart’s teams were better, and it is undoubtedly a team sport, there’s no denying that Leinart’s accomplishments dwarf Caleb’s. And while Williams will be regarded as better than Sanchez, Barkley, and Darnold, he may be seen in the same light as Palmer and behind Leinart. It’s still unbelievable to be considered amongst the best to ever throw for the Cardinal and Gold, but a tad underwhelming in terms of the talent we’re talking about. Around the offense in this contest: I would’ve loved to see Caleb come out swinging a bit more in the first half; he found his groove when it was too little too late. The three early sacks made it challenging for Williams to establish good comfort in the pocket. The running game was non-existent, as is typically when the lead gets away from Lincoln and USC. Hopefully, Lloyd gets more time to showcase himself, probably for the NFL scouts in the game vs UCLA. Washington had another big-play and excellent game; I hope his deep-threat tape is enough for him to be taken in the NFL draft in April. This season was incredibly underwhelming for Dorian Singer; he did not produce anywhere near the level he was making at Arizona, and if we’re being candid, he probably should’ve stayed in Tucson. We could’ve had more production from Freshman Zachariah Branch, whose prominent play ability was relegated to special teams. The only one who shined outside of Washington was Brendan Rice, who’s probably played himself into a 3rd-round selection. We’ll look back at this USC offense as a unit that carried the program and, at times, underwhelmed in pressured situations.

New DC’s Same Problems. Who Can Come In And Save The Day?

Both fourth-quarter touchdowns were massive chunk plays against the Trojans. Plays that, quite frankly, could’ve been prevented. You can’t expect a world of difference in just a week as the two new interim DCs, Shaun Nua and Brian Odom, took command over USC’s defense. Realistically, this unit is going to need a massive overhaul. I think Lincoln’s best bet (assuming he’s still in town and not an NFL Head Coach or the Coach of the Texas A&M Aggies) is to bring in an old foe in Gary Patterson to run the defense. Patterson did wonders for years for the TCU Horned Frogs, and you can attribute the roster he left for Sonny Dykes to TCU’s surprise National Title appearance last season. After leaving Fort Worth, Patterson became a special assistant for the Texas Longhorns and, in a year, helped fix their Swiss-cheese defense. Patterson may want a head coaching position, but Lincoln and USC should make him an offer he can’t refuse if he’s available. Patterson’s defensive success and recruiting abilities (especially in the middle of the country) could pay massive dividends as the Trojans join the Big 10. Another candidate could be Dave Aranda if his time at Baylor ends. Aranda must return to being a DC, where he succeeded in LSU’s latest title run. Jim Leonard, who didn’t get the Head Coaching job at Wisconsin and is now an analyst at Illinois, would be a fun one; he’s very familiar with the Big 10. Many people will throw out Manny Diaz from Penn State; I don’t think he’ll leave for a lateral job.

Final Thoughts

This was the one game many circled as a loss for USC heading into the season, so the results shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s still a tough pill to swallow, as this ends the Trojans’ hope for a shot at the final PAC title and signals an underwhelming last season for one of the greatest players in program history, Caleb Williams.