USC Football: Blueprint for Trojans to Make It to BCS Title Game
Last weekend was sort of glorious for USC fans. Several key losses by top teams put USC more in control of its own destiny than they’d been since the loss to Stanford in September.
Florida State had been getting a lot of hype, but its loss to unranked North Carolina State (17-16) proved there was more hype than reality in Tallahassee. With Boston College up this weekend and Miami, Duke, VA Tech, Maryland and Florida ahead, the Seminoles are likely to rack up at least two losses by the end of the season.
LSU, oh LSU. Where do I even begin? Has any team taken a bigger tumble in perception since the preseason? The Tigers outdid even USC on this front. With the loss to Florida (overrated in my opinion) and South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State ahead on the Tigers’ schedule…well, it’s not going to be pretty.
So let’s take a look at how USC, other than the simple fact of needing to win out while other teams lose, can potentially make it to the BCS title game in January in Miami.
Taking Care of Business on the Trojans' Schedule
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Look, USC’s schedule is no gimme by any means. Even this weekend’s Washington game is a potential minefield that could render this entire hypothesis totally moot. I discussed that the other day.
Arizona, with Rich Rod’s explosive offense, could also present a problem.
As for Oregon, it will, frankly, be a near miracle if the Trojans—as they have looked so far this season—pull off the upset at home on November 3.
UCLA is no walk in the park either, for that matter. The Bruins are vastly improved from last season’s 50-0 debacle (That will NEVER, EVER get old!), and in a rivalry bearing as much animosity and history as this crosstown tilt does, anything can happen.
USC closes its season with Notre Dame at home on Thanksgiving weekend. I’ve polled fellow Trojan fans and they seem equally divided on whether it is better to have ND win out until the USC game and enter the final game of the season undefeated or lose at least one before coming to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
However, the Fighting Irish’s schedule on the road to Los Angeles is not a walk in the park, either. Up this weekend is Stanford in South Bend, which presents an interesting conundrum for the Trojan faithful. Of course USC and its fans want that loss at Stanford to remain, as they say, a “quality loss.” This means that Stanford needs to stop losing.
However, I truly think ND is going to wallop the ever-loving you-know-what out of the Cardinal. Then Notre Dame faces BYU at home, Oklahoma in Norman, Pitt at home, Boston College in MA and Wake Forest at home.
USC obviously needs to take care of business and win out, but when it comes to the bizarre calculations that make up the BCS scenario, what happens to the Trojans’ opponents matters nearly as much.
Knock Each Other Out! (Non-SEC Edition)
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As mentioned in the last slide, Notre Dame and Stanford meet this weekend. I happen to be the ilk of USC fan that thinks Notre Dame needs at LEAST one loss heading into the USC game (preferably two) to help USC's chances in the BCS calculation.
LSU and South Carolina face off this weekend (also see SEC slide). I have no reason to think Les Miles' Tigers are capable of knocking off head ball coach Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks. However, if they do, it will be DELICIOUS.
Oregon already beat Arizona, and the Wildcats still have to face their arch rival, Arizona State.
Speaking of ASU, they are looking remarkably poised six weeks into the season under Todd Graham. They beat Colorado 51-17 this week. The Sun Devils will face Oregon next week at home, then UCLA at home, Oregon State in Corvallis, USC in Los Angeles, Wazzou (who doesn’t yet matter) and Arizona in Tucson.
The Pac-12 will shake down. Oregon State, currently undefeated, lost QB Sean Mannion to a knee injury for an undetermined length of time. The Beavers will lose.
As for the current top of the polls—we’ll look at the SEC in a moment. But currently ahead of USC in the AP poll is West Virginia, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Ohio State (ineligible for postseason play), LSU (are you KIDDING me?) and Oregon State (see: Mannion, Sean—knee injury).
West Virginia—OK, you’ve got me there. Geno Smith is insane. Or is he? They don’t appear to play any defense in the Big 12 and while an offensive shootout is a great amount of fun, it isn’t exactly what gets the hearts of the voters and the chips of the computers overflowing with generosity.
WVU and Kansas State meet each other next weekend, but first up for the Mountaineers is Texas Tech. They then take on TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas. Good luck running that gauntlet.
Kansas State already beat Oklahoma, who is clearly not as good as initially thought (seems to be an epidemic of that going around). Up next for the Wildcats is Iowa State this weekend, then West Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor and Texas.
Besides WVU, I think a late-season tilt with Texas is the best shot for Kansas State to go down.
The SEC Conundrum
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I want to rewrite the lyrics to the West Side Story song "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria" for the SEC.
Honestly, conference play alone is going to shake this conference out. I am not overly impressed by Alabama yet. Who have the Tide played that has challenged them? No one. Who do they face the rest of the season? No one. The Crimson Tide are playing a very easy schedule this season, so just go ahead and pencil them in for the title game.
South Carolina might be the real deal. This is a bit frightening, as it’s been a bad century for the Gamecocks. This weekend SoCar has LSU. The Gamecocks then face off against Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson.
Florida is overrated. The Gators are at Vandy this weekend, then have South Carolina, Georgia, Mizzou, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State (Wow, tough scheduling there, Gators) and Florida State.
If Florida can take care of South Carolina and Florida State can take care of Florida—perfect.
LSU will lose multiple times this season. No one else in the SEC is a threat. Heck, LSU is no longer a threat.
Time Is on USC's Side
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USC needs to handle its own business and trust that each conference will take care of itself.
Everyone has that game they shouldn't lose but sometimes do. That will happen to at least half the 10 teams ahead of USC. Others, like LSU and Oregon State, are going to lose because they are either not that good or have key injuries that will limit success.
Traditionally, USC comes on stronger as the season progresses. If this holds true, and Troy can win out AND beat (presumably) Oregon a second time in the Pac-12 championship game, the Trojans will be in a great position to earn a spot in the BCS title game in Miami.