With the final days of the year approaching, we're taking a look at the five most pressing questions surrounding Lane Kiffin's Trojans in 2012. We'll unveil one each day this week, counting down from No. 5 Monday to No. 1 on Friday.
Question No. 5 covered the Associated Press preseason top 25. Question No. 4 covered NCAA-sanctioned scholarship limits. Question No. 3, then, is this: There are new offensive systems being implemented at four Pac-12 schools this offseason. How will they affect USC going forward?
Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State should all feature totally new offensive schemes next season. USC will play three of those four in 2012 -- all but Mike Leach's Wazzu squad.
In the short term, it probably makes each of the teams a little more beat-able. It takes some time for a new scheme to transfer to a new location and be bought into by the players. But, in the long term, the coaching switches of the 2011 offseason will make the Pac-12 conference much more interesting to watch and much more fast-paced.
What can the Trojans expect from the new-look schools, both in the New Year and the next few new years?
Rodriguez brought with him to Arizona two co-offensive coordinators who held the same posts for him at Michigan and West Virginia, his last two head-coaching stops. Calvin Magee and Rod Smith both have experience injecting energy into offenses, and they'll have a nice prospect to mold into their guy at Arizona in Tom Savage, a two-year starter at Rutgers who transferred after losing his starting spot because of an injury. Rodriguez has been on the job for five weeks and has yet to hire a defensive coordinator.
At UCLA, Jim Mora hired former Arizona State offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone to call plays, a move met with praise around the college football world. USC had trouble dealing with the Sun Devils' offense the last two years and could have similar trouble dealing with the Bruins' now.
And, at ASU, former Pitt and Tulsa coach Todd Graham also brought in his right-hand man at his last two stops, Mike Norvell, to work with the offense. Norvell's offensive schemes are designed to be high-octane; of course, they weren't particularly effective at Pitt this season, when the Panthers went just 6-6.
Before the latter half of the 2011 season, most USC fans would have said that the new offenses spelled bad news for Monte Kiffin and the Trojans. But USC's performance against Oregon at Autzen Stadium last month has given a lot of people a lot of hope that the Kiffins' schemes can stop spread offenses with regularity.
We'll see for sure in the next couple years. But it'll definitely be a lot more interesting.
Check back Thursday for question No. 2, which deals with one prominent player leaving for the draft and how the Trojans will replace him.