Coach O has made USC relevant again

Interim coach Ed Orgeron has led the Trojans into contention. But has he earned the full-time job? AP Photo/Cal Sport Media

It's amazing to look across the college football media landscape right now to see just how many stories have been written about Ed Orgeron and the Trojans.

USC isn't part of the national title hunt, there are no Trojans in line for the Heisman Trophy, yet the resurgent play of the team and the ongoing story with Orgeron's push for the full-time coaching spot have made the Trojans -- as Brent Musberger said at the end of the Stanford game broadcast -- relevant again. The remark wasn't meant as a knock on the program. It has been pretty clear lately that the Trojans weren't a part of the national college football discussion, unless it involved jabs at Lane Kiffin.

You don't have to look any further than last Saturday, when the Coliseum crowd emptied onto the field, to understand how the fans feel about where things stand. It wasn't so much rushing the field to celebrate a big win -- although that was certainly the case -- it was to celebrate a return to being the Trojans again.

It's impossible to overstate just how important Saturday night was to the USC football program. To understand it, you have to look at the past four years of crippling NCAA sanctions and a coaching tenure under Kiffin that simply wasn't a good fit.

Which makes it all the more compelling when you think of where things are right now with Orgeron. Let's face it, when Pat Haden named Orgeron the interim head coach at the end of September, there weren't many who figured him as a legitimate candidate for the permanent job. The perception was that he was a loyal USC soldier who had head coaching experience, and he would be a fine coach for the remainder of the season while Haden looked around at names like Jack Del Rio and Kevin Sumlin.

A funny thing happened along the way, however. At first it was the small things like cookies at training table. Then it was more substantial, such as turning over substitution patterns to the assistant coaches. One by one, the decisions Orgeron made were starting to pay off. The play of the team improved, the mood of the players went through the roof, and -- all of the sudden -- Orgeron had put himself in real consideration for the full-time job that seemed out of reach just a few weeks ago.

There still is debate among some USC fans as to whether Orgeron already has done enough to prove himself. At this point, the majority are in the camp that he has and that he should be named the full-time coach. There are still others who are wary, however, and who maintain that he would need to win out the remaining two games on the schedule or, that no matter what, he is not the right guy in the long term.

When the news came out Sunday that Haden recently had conducted an interview with Del Rio, it was the first confirmed report of an interview with any candidate. Although it was a bit of strange timing considering the glowing aftermath of the Stanford game, it was a reminder that Haden still has a choice to make. Granted, the actual interview took place on Nov. 1, before the Stanford game, so who knows where Haden's head is at right now. There is no need for him to rush the decision, but the time is drawing close, as the Trojans will want to have a full-time coach named in time for their first big recruiting weekend, scheduled for Dec. 13.

In the meantime, there is the matter of competing for a berth in the Pac-12 title game. As crazy as it may seem for this season, the Trojans still are alive for that possibility, although they do not control their own destiny. Arizona State is in the drivers seat and would need to lose its final two games against UCLA and Arizona for the Trojans to have a chance. USC also would need to win its final two games, of course, against Colorado and UCLA.

It would be great college football theater to have the USC-UCLA game Nov. 30 to have a spot in the title game on the line. It also would be one more opportunity for the Trojans to prove Brent Musberger right, and perhaps finalize its coaching search in the process.