USC may have taken a step back with a loss to Stanford, but it is most certainly not out of this BCS championship picture.
It's almost impossible for a team to remain perfect through an entire season. In fact, if a team is going to lose, like USC did last week, it is better to do it earlier in the season rather than later. Now, USC has an entire season to climb back up the rankings, rather than scramble and hope to get some lucky breaks in a small span of time.
But, it will be a tough road for USC to travel back into the title hunt, as three of the last five BCS champions have had one or more losses in their seasons.
However, with the strength of their schedule, the Pac-12 and these other factors, they will be back in the title hunt by December.
Before the season started, USC looked as if it could have run through its schedule, easily finishing with a perfect 12-0 record. However, one loss can taint those same eyes who thought the Trojans would be perfect and now make them question if USC can even get past Arizona.
Well, fear not USC fans, as the Trojans will get past the soft portion of their Pac-12 schedule: Cal and Colorado.
They'll control their games against the middle of the pack in the Pac-12: Utah, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona.
And then their talent will shine in the tough portions of their schedule against Notre Dame, UCLA and Oregon.
This team has too much talent on their roster to finish this season at 10-2. We will see quarterback Matt Barkley (pictured) regain the Heisman-level performance that he lost against Stanford over the next nine games.
USC has yet to play a completely dominant game against a BCS-caliber team this year. Against Syracuse, two weeks ago, they were ripped apart for 455 total yards and 29 points as the offense had to come bail the Trojans out by scoring 42 points.
Last week, in a loss against Stanford, the offense struggled to run the ball while gaining only 26 yards, which forced passing to be their only option. This resulted in the team only scoring 14 points.
While the offense couldn't get the job done, the defense did a good enough job to keep Stanford out of the end zone by allowing 21 points.
The defense and offense must get on the same page to get back on track for the BCS championship game.
One game can either shoot you to the top of the polls, or as in USC's case in its loss to Stanford, make you drop 11 spots.
This is why its game against Oregon on November 3 is so important to its chances at getting back into one of the top five spots in that week's BCS ranking. USC's win, over what should be an undefeated Oregon team, would rocket this Trojans team up into the top 10-to-five portion of the following polls.
Plus, a win against Oregon would give the Ducks their first loss in the Pac-12, which sets up the Ducks to fall to the Cardinal two weeks later, thus knocking the Ducks out of the Pac-12 championship game.
So, a win against Oregon would do double-duty for USC as it will move the school up significantly in the polls, while keeping a more talented Oregon, rather than Stanford, out of the Pac-12 championship game.
Going undefeated, being dominant on both sides of the ball and having an impressive win against Oregon will help move USC up to the top five of the BCS rankings when the Pac-12 championship game comes around; however, the final step they can control is winning this game.
If USC cannot get past either Stanford or Oregon, then all of the work leading up to this spot will be for nothing.
I would expect to see a rematch of USC's only loss, against Stanford.
Here, Barkley and the USC offense can make amends for their poor effort in Week 3 and punch their ticket for what should be a berth in the BCS championship game.
USC can finish its season with 11 regular-season wins and a victory in the Pac-12 championship game. But, if they do not get a little help down the road from other teams losing, then they will be watching the BCS championship game instead of playing in it.
Alabama and LSU will play each other, so one of them will be knocked out of the BCS title picture.
Oklahoma, West Virginia and Texas all have games coming up against each other, with each one potentially knocking each other out of the title picture, while FSU still has to play their entire ACC schedule, with a date against Virginia Tech and a non-conference game Florida.
That is why step five is one of the most important steps and the final piece of the Trojans' blueprint of how they will be playing for this year's BCS Championship.