The USC Trojans just lost a tough battle with the Stanford Cardinal yesterday by a scant seven points. Through the game, both quarterbacks were one completion below 50 percent, and defense ruled a game that looked to be an offensive light show until the game actually kicked off.
While USC may have come out on the losing end, don't forget that scholarship reductions factored heavily into the contest. Stanford's winning touchdown was a 37-yard pass with 10:20 to go in the game.
USC's depth should have hurt it a lot sooner than in the fourth quarter, but it didn't. Why? Because USC is a Top-10 team in disguise.
USC did not get blown out by Stanford, and the Trojan defense did not look inept on the field against the Pac-12 contender, either.
Losing to Oregon State, Louisiana-Monroe or UCLA would offer a great argument for knocking the Trojans out of the Top 10. However, the close loss to Stanford merely established the ability of the Cardinal squad.
After playing a close season opener to the San Jose State Spartans, Stanford was expected to be knocked out of the Top 25 by the first real contender it faced. The Trojans showed up and played a completely different squad than we saw against the Spartans in Week 1.
Against different opponents, USC would get its passing game clicking and gouge the opposing defenses for hundreds of yards. That didn't work against Stanford, but it hasn't worked in the last four years against the Cardinal, either.
USC is still the favorite to win the Pac-12 South, and will still likely meet either Stanford or Oregon in the conference championship. The Pac-12 has had at least two teams ranked in the Top 10 at the end of the last two seasons. The runner-up in the Pac-12 is still a contender for a BCS berth.
The Trojans still have a Heisman-contending quarterback as a signal caller, and two potential-Heisman wide receivers on their offense.
Matt Barkley is far from finished with the 2012 season, and he still has plenty of time to prove that the Stanford game in Week 3 was a fluke. In fact, if USC can run through the rest of its schedule without any more losses, there could be a grudge match for a conference championship.
USC may have lost a game to Stanford, but that doesn't mean that USC should be forgotten. There is still ample opportunity for the Trojans to bounce back. After all, it's only September.
Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina are all in the Top 10. Each of those teams has yet to prove that it could hang with an offense like the Trojans'. For that matter, they have yet to prove they could hang with USC's defense.
The Trojans lost two games last year, and they still finished at No. 6 in the AP poll. What we all learned last night is that Stanford was an underrated team and that USC was overrated at No. 2.
The Trojans will bounce back and represent the Pac-12 South in the conference championship, which they were unable to do because of sanctions last year. Don't be surprised when USC shows up in a great bowl game.
Heck, if last year is any indication, you shouldn't be too surprised if circumstances place them right back in the BCS title game.
The Trojans are down, but far from out. From the coaches to the backup long snapper, you had better believe that USC will use this as fuel to finish its unfinished business. The Trojans may need some help getting back into the title hunt, but they are still one of the 10 best teams in 2012.