USC is in trouble. That’s the headline.

Even on the lousiest day a person has, if you really want to be overly optimistic, “well, I woke up I guess.”

Southern Cal (USC) lost to Utah to drop to 1-3 on the season Saturday morning (if you fancy yourself some Eastern Standard Time) and unfortunately for the program, they may be next on the list of “traditional powerhouse programs that go through modern dark ages.”

The truth is, this one might be already in progress, but we haven’t paid much attention to it, and it happens to the best of programs. The formula is unquestionably there:

1. Lose title winning/legendary coach

2. Make hire that will obviously never meet the expectations of the previous guy

3. Lose a lot/fan base unrest

The kicker normally is that after that first hire who comes on in an impossible situation, you right the ship and the second guy turns it around. If not, man, you’re in some long grass, 230 from the green.

Look at the programs who’ve suffered such a fate. No one, nor region, is immune. From Nebraska to Tennessee. From Michigan to Florida, the only thing that changes by program is how quickly they rectify their mistake.

For instance, Tennessee is still searching after Phil Fulmer. Michigan took a long while after Lloyd Carr departed. How many coaches had Notre Dame run through to find Brian Kelly? Nebraska … it’s hard to tell there. Florida got lucky and seemed to figure it out after one bad hire. There are more, and there will be more. No one is immune.

The smart programs get it over with quickly. Ohio State found Urban Meyer after a one-year hiatus into mediocre-ville, for instance.

USC has talent. They have loads of it, which makes this all the more alarming. California is one of the best states in the country in terms of high school football talent, and the residual effect of the Pete Carroll Glory Years continues to help drive major talent to the Trojans, no matter who is doing the convincing.

But with reports of fights in practice, unconvincing ones of coach Clay Helton being punched, something clearly is amiss and USC needs to get ahead of it before they get so far behind it, they’re looking up at 80 percent of the conference annually in the standings wondering where the glory days have gone.

Athletic Director Lynn Swann has to be noticing the trends, even if that causes terminal head in hands disease. Everyone knows, 1-3 at USC can’t fly.

College football has changed, and the name on the jersey (metaphorically) doesn’t mean as much as it did before scholarship restrictions and the advent of 550 (approximate) channels showing college football every weekend. Wins are no longer birthrights. Look at how much more competitive FCS programs are. College football competitive socialism is at its peak, and USC is the latest victim of the times.

The Lane Kiffin hire was never going to work because Pete Carroll set an impossible standard, the way Urban Meyer, Lloyd Carr, Tom Osborne, Lou Holtz, and Phil Fulmer (to name a few) did. Steve Sarkisian was a surprising hire considering the lack of national success at Washington. Clay Helton was equally surprising considering the angst.

Whatever the reason big names with proven records haven’t wanted any part of USC is known only to a small cabal of people, but this is USC, and something is off track.

The blueprint for the Dark Ages of football is written out. USC is on their third coach removed from a legend, and it’s not going well. Righting the ship sooner rather than later will take some serious convincing to someone with a high success rate that they can do some of what Pete did, and resurrect a one of the true blue bloods in the sport.

Sitting around with fingers crossed is only going to make things worse.