Regarding this ongoing battle to replace Matt Barkley as the starting quarterback for USC, I can hear the boxing announcer now:
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the University of Southern California!”
“Introducing the challengers for this ultimate competition to determine the starting signal caller for the Trojans…”
“In the Cardinal corner, standing at 6′ 4″ tall and 235 pounds, a third year sophomore from Newport Beach, CA and Mater Dei High School, wearing number 13: Max Wittek!”
“And in the Gold corner, standing at 6′ 1″ tall and 215 pounds, another third-year sophomore from Bakersfield, CA and Centennial High School, wearing number six: Cody Kessler!”
“Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”
That’s practically what this has turned into, a boxing match, only there have been no knockdowns and the judges have the fight evenly scored after the third round, also known as the Trojans’ first game against Hawaii, with the first two rounds being the recent spring practice and fall camp.
This is the case although from a strict statistics point, Kessler seems to have a slight edge due to his better numbers as he went ten-for-19 in Hawaii for 19 yards and a touchdown, sporting a pass efficiency rating of 114.7.
Meanwhile, after completing just five of his ten passes for 77 yards and an efficiency score of 101.5, Wittek seemed, at least on the surface, to have been slightly outdone by Kessler.
But the Trojan offense, due to the success of its running backs in the second half when Wittek played, moved the ball better during those last 30 minutes; that’s why I called it a draw after the Trojans’ 30-13 win over Hawaii.
I think that one big factor in coach Lane Kiffen’s hesitation to name a starter after several months of practice and the opening of the season – besides neither player showing the superior ability on the field so far – that no one is talking about, is because Kiffen may be afraid that the person who is not named as Barkley’s successor, the one who loses the competition, will transfer.
That’s the situation going into ‘SC’s home opener this Saturday against the Washington State Cougars, which will also serve as the Pac-12 Conference opener.
Like in the Hawaii game, according to unnamed and unauthorized sources from the Los Angeles Times Kiffen plans to play both quarterbacks against the Cougars, Kessler starting but Wittek relieving him in the second half.
If that turns out to be the pattern all season, it won’t be the first time that the Trojans played two quarterbacks without a clear starter as Brad Otton and Kyle Wachholz both called signals for John Robinson in 1995.
It proved to be successful as USC, led by Keyshawn Johnson, won the Pac-10 title and the Rose Bowl over Northwestern that year, going 9-2-1 with losses only to their two rivals, Notre Dame and UCLA. For the record, Otton and Wachholz combined for over 3,100 yards in the air in ’95, with 25 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions.
So it could be done, playing both Wittek and Kessler, although I’m sure that many, if not most Trojan fans, would prefer to have one guy be the man.
If I were the USC coach, here’s what I would do:
I would go ahead and start Kessler because of his better numbers, but make sure that the sophomore knew he would be on a short leash, that if he messed up and cost the Trojans, I wouldn’t hesitate to put Wittek in.
But since I’m not the Trojan head coach or am involved with USC in any way, it’s not my place to solve this dilemma, but Kiffen’s.
Hopefully that program will have a clearer insight as to who the guy under center will be after they face Washington State on Saturday night.
SO L.A. SPORTS HUBBERS (WHO ARE ALSO TROJAN FANS): WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE MAN UNDER CENTER FOR ‘SC?