No, he didn’t beat an avalanche down a mountain, or defend himself in the Alaskan wild with just a pen knife, although either of those would have been easier than exiting the state of Tennessee a step ahead of the tar and feathers.
Kiffin managed to take a football program torn asunder by Reggie Bush and the NCAA and return it to the No. 1 position in the land. And he did so in two years, or roughly half the time it took the NCAA’s crack rapid-response team to conduct the investigation into the Trojans’ football program in the first place.
The USC program was supposed to be devastated by a two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships. Instead, it was merely annoyed by them. The bowl ban is kaput, the scholarship restrictions are still being managed, yet Kiffin has been able not only to keep his team focused, but to polish the USC brand. Rather than fade from national prominence, USC is again the glamour pick among high school recruits, especially after the recent dedication of its eye-popping $70 million John McKay Center athletics facility.
College football kicks off
CFT's Preseason Top 25: Look for Matt Barkley and USC, which is bowl eligible for the first time since '09, to end up No. 1.
Today he is a senior quarterback and Heisman Trophy favorite. But back in 2010, he was a sophomore who could have skipped town without having to sit out a season when the sanctions came down. Instead, he remained, and Barkley is the major reason why Pundit Nation is so smitten with the Trojans.
The USC offense is the envy of most NFL teams. That’s not to say it’s good enough to beat NFL defenses, only that it’s stocked with premium talent at just about every position in a way that is the envy of any coach at any level.
Barkley threw for 3,528 yards last season, at a completion rate of 69 percent. In each of his three previous seasons, he improved in the TD-to-INT ratio: As a frosh, he tossed 15 touchdowns and had 14 picks; as a soph, 26 to 12; last year, 39 to only seven.
For 2012, he not only has his two favorite targets — wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee — but they’re ably backed up by junior De’Von Flournoy, sophomore George Farmer, redshirt freshman Victor Blackwell and true freshman Nelson Agholor. Tight ends Xavier Grimble and Randall Telfer and fullback Soma Vainuku add to the embarrassment of receiving riches.
The tailback position had been a source of concern, until Kiffin convinced Silas Redd to transfer in from Penn State to compete with Curtis McNeal for the starting job. Now the Trojans have two veteran first-string ball carriers, with Buck Allen and D.J. Morgan vying for additional reps.
The Vikings made Matt Kalil the No. 4 overall pick in the NFL draft, but the Trojans still have four returning starters from an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in the nation last season.
Yes, SEC fans, Kiffin could ironically be the one to lead a team that ends the conference's impressive run of national titles, which stands at six straight.
To do so, the offense obviously can't do it all for the Trojans.
For the first half of last season, the USC defense was a work-in-progress that didn’t work. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin struggled to adapt his scheme to a young and inexperienced crop of players. But the defense found its footing over the last seven games, and even though that included giving up 56 points in a triple-overtime loss to Stanford and 35 in a victory over Oregon, the collective unit was more cohesive and effective. That bodes well for a sturdier 2012.
All-America safety T.J. McDonald and cornerbacks Nickell Robey and Torin Harris anchor the secondary, linebackers Dion Bailey, Lamar Dawson and Hayes Pullard are among the best in the country, and linemen Wes Horton, George Uko and freshman Leonard Williams should wreak havoc. Depth on the D-line is an issue — especially with defensive end Devon Kennard possibly out for the season — but the Trojans are moving bodies around from different positions in order to create an iron patchwork that should get the job done.
CFT: Johnny Manziel nearly transferred out of Texas A&M before the 2012 season after being suspended, according to reports, but he stayed after his successful appeal.
About 325 former Penn State players, among them Kerry Collins and Paul Posluszny, have signed a statement supporting the lawsuit filed by the family of former coach Joe Paterno.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
The Hype: How early is too early for sports scholarships?
There's a disturbing trend afoot in college football -- the offering of scholarships to middle school students. Despite never playing a down of high school football, Lindell Stone, an eighth-grader who already has an offer from UCLA, is the latest hot commodity. Michelle Beadle and Carolyn Manno discuss the absurdity of this trend and consider the possibility of scholarships for embryos
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.