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Thursday, December 27, 2012
Roundtable: Moments with most impact

By WeAreSC staff

For this week's roundtable, the WeAreSC staff got together to compile a list of the 10 moments of the 2012 season that had the most impact.

1. Decision to shelve the black shoes
The USC uniform is one of the most traditional in college football, and that includes the black shoes that had long represented the blue-collar nature of the program. At some point in the offseason the decision was made to go with a flashier style of shoe for the 2012 season, a look that was more Oregon than USC. The change was roundly panned within the USC community, particularly by the former players who had worn the black shoes with so much pride through the years.

2. Barkley-to-Lee play to open the season
Marqise Lee
Marqise Lee had this 100-yard kickoff return against Hawaii, in addition to his 75-yard scoring catch.
Entering the season opener vs. Hawaii ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation, Matt Barkley and the Trojans debuted with a play that seemed all too fitting at the time. On the first play from scrimmage, USC's highly regarded passer hit Marqise Lee with a quick strike, and the star wideout did the rest, darting off 75 yards for the score. For Lee, it was a sign of things to come. For the team as a whole, however, it was arguably the high point of the year, and one of the only times the Trojans came close to living up to the lofty preseason expectations.

3. Absence of Holmes vs. Stanford
The game against the Cardinal was expected to be the first major test for the Trojans and a chance to prove they deserved the top preseason ranking. Late in the previous game against Syracuse, however, senior center Khaled Holmes went down with an apparent ankle injury, and he was forced to miss the Stanford game. Redshirt freshman Cyrus Hobbi got the start in Holmes' place, and the offense struggled more than expected without its leader in the middle of the line against a pretty good Cardinal defensive front. The result was a key early-season loss for the Trojans.

4. Kiffin walking out on press conference
Call it the pressure of being the preseason No. 1, but it took less than 30 seconds for Kiffin to walk out of a September post-practice interview session when he was asked about the return of an injured player (Holmes) to practice. That incident followed one the previous week, when a local reporter was banned from practice for two weeks after reporting on an injury that allegedly didn't happen at practice. Although the reporter's access was quickly reinstated, the two incidents presaged more Kiffin missteps during the season, which continuously and relentlessly focused the national media's glare on the Trojans coach.

5. Starling stymies Washington comeback
With the Trojans clinging to a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, Huskies QB Keith Price drove his team to the USC 3-yard line and was on the verge of punching in a huge momentum-changing touchdown. But USC senior safety Jawanza Starling came up with his play of the season, knocking the ball away from Price, then recovering the fumble. The play killed Washington's surge and secured a USC victory -- and a character-building one at that -- against a Pac-12 foe led by one of Kiffin's most respected former coaching mates, Steve Sarkisian.

6. Barkley record and video tribute
In a season during which too much went wrong for Barkley, the moment when he set the all-time Pac-12 touchdown record was absolutely right. Immediately after Barkley made the record-breaking throw against Colorado, a video played on the Coliseum screen with notables such as Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart giving Barkley kudos. When the stadium cameras showed Barkley on the sideline, the smile on his face spoke volumes about what the moment meant to him. It was a smile Barkley didn't show often in the 2012 season, but it was there for everyone to see on that day.

7. Barkley misses Woods against Arizona
It was a play Kiffin has brought up on more than a few occasions of late, and if you're looking for the turning point of the season, this just might be it. With the Trojans holding a 15-point lead in the third quarter at Arizona, receiver Robert Woods broke wide open down the left sideline. If Barkley had connected with the talented wideout, the Trojans would have taken a 22-point lead, likely running away with the game and heading into the Oregon matchup with a 7-1 record. Instead, the pass sailed past Woods' outstretched arms, USC punted, Arizona scored 26 consecutive on its way to a 39-36 victory, and the Trojans finished the regular season with four losses in their last five games.

8. Lee at Arizona
It's not like Marqise Lee needed a national stage to send the message out loud and clear that he was a present and future Heisman Trophy candidate, but the eventual Biletnikoff Award winner clearly presented evidence on national television that he was the real deal. All Lee did at Arizona was rack up 16 catches for a Pac-12-record 345 yards and two touchdowns. Lee had 12 catches for 255 yards in the first half and opened the second half with a 44-yard touchdown reception, eventually breaking the Pac-12 record of 293 yards receiving set by Oregon State's Mike Hass in 2004.

9. Oregon puts up 730 & 62
Kenjon Barner
Kenjon Barner and the Ducks torched USC's defense for 426 rushing yards in November.
After numerous examples that the Trojans' defense was defenseless against the spread option, the worst nightmare of both defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and Trojans fans came to fruition in the Coliseum. Oregon's offense was relentless, making the Trojans defense look like a Pop Warner team while amassing 730 yards in total offense, 426 of it on the ground. The Ducks lit up the Coliseum scoreboard for a 62-51 victory. To make matters worse, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner looked like Charles White, rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

10. Goal-line series against Notre Dame
There might not have been a hotter playcaller in the country at the end of the 2011 season than Lane Kiffin, but somewhere along the way in 2012 that changed. An inconsistent USC offense often featured confusing strategies and game-management issues. All of that seemed to come together late in the Notre Dame game, when the Trojans had a golden opportunity to score with the ball at the Irish goal line. Instead, a series of odd play calls and poor clock management ultimately left the Trojans empty.