Rankman's wrap: USC and UCLA are too young at QB...no kidding


Thank God the Rams and Chargers moved home because college football, as presently constructed in Los Angeles, is a daycare center.

USC and UCLA lost games on Saturday, to Texas and Fresno State, by the combined score of 75-28.

Both our locals continue to start first-year freshmen quarterbacks and continue to pay grownup prices for it.

Last week, starting should-be high school senior JT Daniels, USC failed to score a touchdown against Stanford for the first time since 1941.

This week, Daniels fell to 1-2 as Kid Commander of Lost Trojan Brigade in Austin.

UCLA dropped to 0-3 and appears headed for 0-5 for the first time since 1943.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Saturday, we learned once again what happens when youth gets served, up, on a platter.

The Trojans and Bruins both have losing records, three games in, for the first time since 1997.

When will we stop listening to USC coaches gush about 18-year-old quarterbacks from Mater Dei?

The only two true freshmen to start a season for USC, Matt Barkley in 2009 and J.T. Daniels in 2018, have now lost five of the 15 games they’ve started.

The two can’t-miss Mater Dei kids have first-year combined for 16 touchdowns against 17 interceptions. Yet, we were led to believe by two different USC coaches that neither QB would impede USC's path-toward national championship progression.

What a load of hogwash. Pete Carroll, back in 2009, bragged so enthusiastically about Barkley it was embarrassing.

“You can talk all you want about him being young,” Carroll of Barkley after a 2009 win at Cal, “but he is a real football player…He is playing as good of football as anybody we have ever had.”

It wasn’t true, and neither was the early hype on Daniels who, like King Tut, was all but carried in by servants from Mater Dei and anointed the starter in late August.

USC Coach Clay Helton said Daniels won the job with his “uncanny maturity,” yet here the Trojans sit, brokenhearted.

After last week’s 17-3 loss at Stanford, Helton championed his team’s effort as “heroic” and said everything the Trojans desired was still left to be won.

That’s totally wrong if Helton was talking about USC competing for this year's national championship.

"I thought we had a good plan," Helton said after the Texas loss.

Time for Plan B.

In three games, Daniels has thrown one touchdown pass and three interceptions. Of course the Texas loss wasn't all his fault as the Trojans rushed for minus-5 yards, but that's what defensive coordinators are going to do against a young QB. Stop the run and see if a high school senior can beat you.

You might give Helton the benefit of doubt on quarterbacks but his track record is suspect. In 2016, USC started 1-2 with a quarterback from San Clemente on the bench.

The QB then was Sam Darnold…the QB now is Jack Sears.

USC is 1-2 again with San Clemente waiting for his shot. Will Helton stick with Daniels or go with Sears? Or is it time to think Fink (Matt).

If Helton wants to stick with Daniels and call this a rebuild year, fine, but just tell everyone there will be Barkley-like growing pains and we'll all look forward to 2019.

UCLA’s lost-cause plight is somewhat different. Its freshman quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, was thrown into his role after graduate transfer Wilton Speight injured his back in the Cincinnati opener.

Still, a freshman is a freshman, and Saturday night’s home loss to Fresno was punctuated by Chip Kelly’s sideline lecturing of his young student. Thompson-Robinson completed only 10-of-24 passes for 151 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. He WILL have better days.

"I thought he was up and down," Kelly said of his quarterback's performance.

UCLA's performance thus far has only been a downer.

"No one feels sorry for you," Kelly said as he team moves forward into the teeth of at Colorado, Washington and at Cal.

Both Daniels and Thompson-Robinson, in fact, should mature into fine young players, but not before a lot more "uncanny" maturing.

If you were thinking this is going to be a long year for USC and UCLA, well, it already is.

Time to Pay Attention to Coach O 

Ed Orgeron summed it up perfectly after Louisiana State’s stunning, last-second, 22-21, win over Auburn.

“Wella, Labutcha Ol Yubba For Ta Tuggas,” he said.

Or something like that. It’s more important now to recognize what Coach O is doing, not saying.

And Saturday’s stunner, as a double-digit road underdog, spoke clearly and loudly.

Since Sept. 20, 2017, and the horrible wrath of losing at home to Troy, Orgeron has beaten Auburn twice and Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee on the road.

The LSU Tigers are 3-0 this season with signature wins over Miami and Auburn, on their way to sniffing the top five in Sunday’s polls.

Maybe it’s time to start taking Coach O more seriously and realize he’s not the head coach who went 10-25 at Ole Miss and then huffed out on USC when he didn’t get the job after Lane Kiffin.

Saturday’s win at Auburn, on Cole Tracy’s field goal, was a potential launching-pad victory as it put LSU squarely into this year’s national playoff race.

LSU now sits atop the SEC West and its three remaining toughest games, at least on paper, against Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama, are all in Baton Rouge.

Quarterback Joe Burrow, the transfer from Ohio State, proved Saturday he could win in an environment much tougher than anything he saw in the Big Ten.

Maybe it’s time to place a bet on the Big O.

Let’s not completely rewrite history: It was Orgeron who blew his chance to be named USC’s permanent coach in 2013 after Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin on the tarmac at LAX.

Orgeron botched it losing to USC’s chief rivals, Notre Dame AND UCLA, then walked out of the team in advance of the bowl game.

That was not a good look but we know now that Orgeron, always a players’ favorite, was a better choice than Steve Sarkisian.

It will bend USC fans to no end if Orgeron ends up winning a national title in Baton Rouge while the Trojans totter along with Clay Helton.

But that’s life, huh?

As they say down in Red Stick: Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Let the good times roll.

Florida State and Nebraska are 1-4

Orange used to look good on Florida State and the notion of Nebraska losing at home to Troy would be acceptable, maybe, if it was USC.

What happened to our icons?

Tom Osborne: “Bobby?”

Bobby Bowden: “Dadgummit, Tom, I don’t know.”

Saturday delivered a jarring blow to two of the greatest and proudest programs of the last half-century.

Florida State and Nebraska, which played in consecutive high-stakes Orange Bowls in the meat of the pre-BCS 1990s, are now having stakes driven through them.

The Seminoles and Cornhuskers are a collective 1-4 today after losing Saturday games, frankly, that weren’t that close.

Florida State lost at Syracuse, 30-7, falling to 1-2 a week after almost losing at home to Samford. The Seminoles were ridiculously favored at Syracuse but ultimately lucky to avoid their first shutout since 2006.

Some Syracuse fans started chanting “We Want Bama.” Hold the juice, there, Orange.

Nebraska fell to 0-2, for the first time since 1957, after a 24-19 home loss to Troy.

FSU and Nebraska have come a long way (down) since the Orange Bowl epic of 1994, capping one college football’s greatest seasons.

Bowden won his first of two national titles with a 18-16 win over Nebraska, breaking his hard-luck streak. Bowden would add another title in 1999, while hard-luck Osborne rebounded to win national titles in 1995, 1996 and a half-share in 1997.

These days both programs are headed toward the Blue Bowl.

At least Nebraska has an excuse, playing Saturday’s game without injured quarterback Adrian Martinez, the situation made worse when backup Tristian Gebbia transferred to Oregon State after losing the summer competition. That left the Huskers with walk-on Andrew Bunch.

We’re going to cut first-year coach Scott Frost some slack, thinking that Nebraska can still flip their Omaha steaks.

Florida State looks like a tattered mess under first-year coach Willie Taggart, who bolted Oregon without leaving a note to take the job vacated by Jimbo Fisher.

It’s hard to believe the Seminoles, 7-6 last year, won a national title in the last year and while under Bowden, finished top four in the final AP poll 14 straight seasons (1987-2000).

Bottom line: Things are a little “Frosty” in Lincoln and getting warmer, every day, in Tallahassee.