College Football: Does USC's Loss to Stanford Actually Help the Trojans?

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College Football: Does USC's Loss to Stanford Actually Help the Trojans?
Harry How/Getty Images

Better to lose early in the season than late in the season. 

We've heard that before. And it may hold true for USC this year.

If history repeats itself.

In the fourth week of the 2008 season, the Florida Gators lost at home to Ole Miss 31-30. The Gators went on to rip through nine games, including the SEC Championship, and beat Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS Championship game. 

Somehow, the Gators made everybody forget about that early freakish loss to Ole Miss. The Rebels, by the way, finished the regular season ranked No. 25. 

Early losses may be forgotten in pollsters' minds but losing to a ranked team is much more forgivable than losing to say, an unranked Iowa State in November. You get the picture. 

So what about USC?

The Trojans were beaten by a Stanford team that is now ranked No. 8. If Stanford wins out, which is entirely possible, their streak will include wins over currently ranked Notre Dame, Oregon and Oregon State. It would also mean that the USC Trojans could possibly face Stanford for a rematch in the Pac-12 title game. 

All of a sudden, that early loss doesn't really hurt USC unless there are a few undefeated SEC teams ahead of them. Remember, last year 11-1 Alabama didn't even play in the SEC Championship but ended up playing 13-0 LSU for the BCS Championship. 

Think pollsters would want that same rematch if 12-1 USC was available to play Alabama?

Probably not. It's unfortunate that a team's possible BCS bowl berth hinges on whether or not we want to see another SEC v SEC rematch but then again, shouldn't a team that played one extra game and won that extra game be rewarded over a team that didn't play in its own championship?

If Oklahoma State had played in and won the now non-existent Big 12 Championship, that extra win may have been enough reason for the pollsters to send Oklahoma State, not Alabama, on to the Big Dance.

But they didn't.

There's also that psychological factor that kicks in when a team loses a game that most pundits had them winning; you know nothing is guaranteed. A team either folds or ratchets it up a notch. Or it gets too complacent and over-confident.

Last year LSU ran the table in the SEC, going 12-0 in the regular season and winning the SEC Championship. The Tigers' confidence was high. Their gums were flapping. They were unbeatable.

They were destined. 

And they got destroyed. 

In the BCS Championship game last season, LSU was unprepared. The team looked to head coach Les Miles to conjure up some luck. There was none. He was befuddled.

USC entered this season full of hype and a No. 1 ranking by the AP. They, at times, played lethargically, sloppy and out of sync. It's OK, everyone thought. They're just brushing off the cobwebs after a two-year sabbatical from being postseason eligible. 

Their start was eerily similar to last year's September where USC barely beat Minnesota and Utah and struggled to put away Syracuse. Then they lost at Arizona State. They were punched in the face 43-22.

USC went on a tear before losing their second game to Stanford in triple overtime. They had nothing to play for but went on to play almost perfect football in their final three games beating Washington 40-17, Oregon 38-35 (at Autzen) and UCLA 50-0. 

Will this team bounce back the way they did after last year's Arizona State game?

It may not be a question of whether they have their heads in the game. It's probably more a question of whether they have enough bodies to play. The talent is there. The reason to play is there. 

They know they can be beat. They know the hype is gone. 

But the anger is simmering.

If USC reels off nine straight games and wins the Pac-12 Championship, history may just repeat itself after a four-year hiatus. 

Sometimes, a healthy dose of comeuppance is a good thing.

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