Success is a relative term … relative to expectations. If you exceed expectations, then you have been successful. So whenever you define success, setting expectations becomes the hard part, and for a team like USC, there will be lots of different opinions, especially after an ugly win against Minnesota.
I sit in front of a guy at the Coliseum who seems to expect John Robinson's late 1970s and early 1980s teams to run out of the tunnel each week. Always disappointed that Marcus Allen isn't in the backfield carrying the ball 20 times a quarter, he resides in a state of never-ending disappointment. And while I personally believe high expectations by fans and alumni are good for USC and will ensure that the proper pressure is always applied, the question becomes: What are realistic expectations for 2011?
I struggle with two answers to that question, as I tend to come at my Trojans opinions from two viewpoints (analyst and player). As an analyst, I have to face facts. USC wasn't very good last year, competing every week, but failing to finish games out, ending the season at 8-5. The only real difference for 2011 is that USC has a little more talent, depth and athleticism on the roster (though most of it resides in very young players), while losing more than a half-dozen really good, established players such as Tyron Smith, Jurrell Casey and Allen Bradford. The coaching staff has another year under its belt with these players, but there are undeniable holes on the offensive line, at linebacker and in the defensive backfield, as well as no game changer at running back. When one assesses this with the schedule ahead, it's hard to expect more than an 8-4 season.