LOS ANGELES — USC coach Clay Helton extended his left wrist to reveal a cardinal-colored bracelet to a gaggle of reporters.
Helton, sitting on a stage in a ballroom at the Hollywood and Highland Center during Pac-12 media days on Thursday, had been asked about his team’s mounting expectations for the upcoming season.
The gold letters on his bracelet displayed USC’s total national championships (11) and Rose Bowl victories (25).
“I know it’s our opportunity and our obligation to be able to change those numbers,” Helton said, “and it reminds me each and every day we’ve got to work toward that.”
Preseason hype surrounds the Trojans. They were again picked to win the conference in a poll of media members released a day earlier.
The selection, though, comes with some baggage.
The last three times USC was picked to win the conference crown, it failed to do so.
Here’s the rundown. In 2015, the Trojans ended up in the Pac-12 championship game, falling to Stanford, but Coach Steve Sarkisian was fired midway through the season. In 2012, they finished only one game above .500 in conference, became the first Associated Press preseason No. 1 team to finish unranked in nearly half a century and Coach Lane Kiffin was fired five games into the following season. In 2009, they finished in fifth place in the conference standings, ending a run of six consecutive Pac-10 titles under Pete Carroll. After the season, Carroll returned to the NFL.
Will their fate be different this time?
“I don’t think that any of that matters to us right now,” linebacker Cameron Smith said. “Since Coach Helton’s walked in, we’ve stayed consistent to his message. It’s all within us.”
The Trojans ended last season on a nine-game winning streak, capped by their dramatic Rose Bowl victory over Penn State in the final seconds.
They were unable to reach the College Football Playoff after a 1-3 start to the season and finished second in the Pac-12 South Division standings,…