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NCAAF Notebook: The Clay Helton era is over at USC

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

September 16th, 2021

College football has a way of speeding up like a freight train once the season kicks off, and Week 2 proved things are already going wild as upsets and drama heightened our collective excitement. As we anxiously await this week’s games, here are the top stories from around the nation.

Down Go the Buckeyes

The Ohio State Buckeyes were a consensus Top 4 team entering this season, and were generally expected to be an eventual national championship contender.

The Buckeyes may well re-enter that conversation come season’s ahead, but following a home loss as 14.5-point favorites to Oregon, the long term outlook for Ohio State in 2021 is much bleaker than it was just a week ago.

Freshman C.J. Stroud has looked elite at times, but he is still a freshman and may have accuracy issues. The talent at wide receiver can mask some of his mis-throws but not all of them. More importantly, the defense has been abysmal. Oregon ran all over the Buckeyes, as did Minnesota, and it is a weakness that many teams in the Big Ten are surely licking their chops over. The Buckeyes could still win their conference and make for an interesting debate come season’s end, but they will have to be perfect from here on our for that to happen.

Upsets All Around 

In addition to the Buckeyes going down, a number of other ranked teams lost in Week 2. Only once before in NCAAF history have more ranked teams lost in the first two weeks of the season. 

Texas A&M barely survived against Colorado, as did Notre Dame against Toledo, but USC, Texas, and Utah all suffered devastating defeats. Each team lost not just in close and heartbreaking ways, but in ways that showed they have major flaws and are several tiers below the elite status that their fan bases may have hoped for entering 2021.

As we head into Week 3, many more Top 25 teams are on upset alert. Cincinnati, Miami, Virginia Tech, Coastal Carolina, Notre Dame, and Penn State all have big bullseyes on their backs.

Clay Helton Out

In the wake of USC’s blowout defeat against lowly Stanford, USC administration made the decision to move away from perpetually hot-seated Clay Helton. The Trojans looked soft, losing 42-28 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score suggests.

The Trojans out-gained the Cardinal but much of that was meaningless yardage and Stanford racked up an incredible 7.1 yards per play. The Trojans had nine penalties, and were down 35-13 entering the fourth quarter at home against a team that had their season win total set at four.

Following the loss, Helton was removed and the Trojans inserted Donte Williams into the interim role. It is widely expected that he will not see the interim tag removed permanently as the national search will pursue some of the biggest names in the sport. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Urban Meyer has been mentioned, as have a half-dozen other major names from around the country.

USC is still a good job despite recent struggles, and their head coaching vacancy will be one of the most closely watched stories of the year.

College Football Games of the Week

As we look forward to Week 3’s chaos and competition, there are many games that are "must-see" for fans and bettors, but two in particular stand out.

First up is Alabama at Florida, which is set for a 3:30 pm ET kick-off in Gainesville. The Tide are 14-point favorites and should win easily but the Gators have looked impressive on offense despite splitting snaps between quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.

Sat, September 18 2021, 7:30 PM







O 59







U 59

This is Alabama quarterback Bryce Young’s first big test on the road in the SEC, and will give us a much clearer picture of what to expect from the Tide in 2021.

Next up is the primetime game on ABC featuring Auburn and Penn State. Auburn has new head coach Bryan Harsin from Boise State, while Penn State is hoping for a bounceback to national prominence under James Franklin after a disappointing 2020.

Sat, September 18 2021, 11:30 PM

Penn State






O 53







U 53

The Lions are 5-point favorites in what will make for an outstanding scene and college football game.