The Trojans (2-1) fell to No. 13 in the AP Top 25 and No. 12 in the USA Today poll, but their hopes of making the BCS championship have not yet gone to pass.
The Cardinal, now ranked No. 9/No. 11, were perhaps the best team on the USC schedule this season. That the Trojans succumbed to a 21-14 road loss does not mean that all is lost in their season.
There is still plenty of opportunity for Barkley and Co. to make up for ground lost in Week 3 of the college football season. The key to shoring up USC's BCS chances indeed begin with the ground game.
USC allowed 202 rushing yards to Stanford on Saturday. It has allowed more than 130 yards rushing per game in three games this season.
After giving up 133 yards on the ground in their season opener against Syracuse, the Trojans held Hawaii to 58 yards rushing, making Saturday's totals a big letdown.
If it can begin holding teams to less rushing yardage, the history of the USC squad (along with its preseason worth) will be heavily weighted in the polls, which could lead to its inclusion in the BCS National Championship Game come January.
The respect that the USC program has in the eyes of the AP, including its Top Three preseason ranking, affords it an opportunity to crack the Top Two in the rankings once again.
Trojan fans: Stay optimistic. In 2011, no team in the AP Top 25 went undefeated, including LSU and Alabama—the two teams that competed for the crystal football.
Will the Trojans play for the BCS championship this season?
The Trojans will have at least three opportunities to revive their season, beginning with games against No. 21/No. 22 Arizona and No. 19 UCLA on the road. In the season finale, the Trojans host previously No. 20 Notre Dame, which upset then-No. 10 Michigan State.
Now at No. 11/No. 15 in the polls, a win over the Fighting Irish would give the Trojans a great chance to sneak back into the Top Two by season’s end.
The precedent set by the BCS since 2002 is that the best teams are typically afforded at least one loss, within reason, and still be considered the cream of the college football crop. Because its defeat was at the hands of a ranked team that's part of the Pac-12, some leeway is given to USC in terms of its ranking.
In fact, only in 2004 and 2010 did both of the top two teams in either poll go undefeated. In 2007, the three teams in the Top Two of each poll each finished with two losses apiece.
For those of you in Southern California and abroad, don't fret just yet.