Coaches helped, hurt by schedules

Updated: July 10, 2013, 11:07 AM ET
By Travis Haney

Coaches skating on increasingly thin ice would no doubt love to have a schedule like Louisville's or Ohio State's this fall, but it doesn't work that way. Which coaches on or flirting with the hot seat could benefit, or be done in, by their schedules?

Lane Kiffin, USC

Heat check: Sizzling

There's no question that last season, which began with incredible expectations, was not pretty for Lane Kiffin and the Trojans. The Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech, with the reported locker room scuffle to boot, was the last of the sour notes.

But what now? The defense should have a different look with new coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and when I spoke with receivers coach Tee Martin recently, he said he thought quarterback contenders Max Wittek and Cody Kessler both had solid springs.

No one is expecting USC, still feeling the effects of the scholarship reductions, to reach the level it was supposed to in 2012. But will there be enough positive momentum for Kiffin to earn back some trust from fans and those inside the program and keep his job? Or will the slide continue?

How the schedule sets up: There's some good news and bad news here for Kiffin. With 13 regular-season games, thanks to the opener at Hawaii, the win total could potentially appear slightly more inflated. The opening stretch of the Rainbows, Washington State, Boston College and Utah State might result in some climbing back on the USC bandwagon, especially if the Trojans follow that up with a win in their Sept. 28 road test at Arizona State. That game should help shape the division race.