The first week of the BCS standings is out and USC is ranked No. 10. So far, the Trojans are still in the race for a BCS National Championship berth in Miami Gardens, Florida next January.
In fact, they're in a great position.
The Trojans face two teams ranked ahead of them—No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Notre Dame— the latter of which will be USC's last regular-season opponent. If USC wins out, it will have jumped Oregon and Notre Dame and place somewhere in the Top Five, if not the Top Three, in the standings due to strength of schedule and quality wins.
USC can end Notre Dame's BCS Championship game hopes with a win at the Coliseum because Notre Dame's SOS isn't as strong as once thought—three of the Fighting Irish's opponents (Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State) play in the watered-down Big Ten.
As it stands right now, Notre Dame has played just one currently ranked BCS team (Stanford) and that game ended with a controversial no-touchdown call. Of the six teams Notre Dame has played, only two have fewer than three losses: Michigan and Stanford. The Fighting Irish face No. 9 Oklahoma October 27 and No.10 USC on November 24.
A potential 11-0 Notre Dame facing a potential 10-1 USC could be the game that paves the path to the BCS Championship game.
But there are other obstacles for USC.
No. 6 LSU still has No. 18 Texas A&M and No.1 Alabama on its schedule as well as No. 12 Mississippi State. If LSU wins out, it'll stay ahead of USC, but it'll likely have to face either Florida—the team it lost to already—or South Carolina—the team it barely beat—in the postseason.
But that's assuming LSU beats Alabama in two weeks. Hmm.
Another interesting scenario is No. 11 Georgia winning out and leapfrogging USC. But that doesn't seem likely due to the Bulldogs' very soft schedule; the only game in which they've played against a currently ranked BCS opponent ended in a rout, with South Carolina winning 35-7.
The Bulldogs will have to beat Florida decisively to jump USC, and even then, their SOS might not have enough onions to get the job done. Moreover, if both South Carolina and Georgia win out, South Carolina gets the nod to represent the East in the SEC Championship due to head-to-head competition being part of the tiebreaking rules.
No. 2 Florida still has No. 7 South Carolina and No. 11 Georgia to contend with before cruising through November. And that could be a problem for the Gators, but a godsend for the Trojans.
Florida may drop in the computers with a November schedule that has only one conference game against Missouri; Jacksonville State and Louisiana will not help the Gators' SOS. Florida State may not be enough to help the Gators' weak late-season slate because playing an FCS and Sun Belt team in November tends to upset those BCS computers.
The problem for both Florida and LSU is Alabama.
While Florida doesn't face the Tide in the regular season, LSU does. If Alabama wins out, as it is expected to do, Florida will have to play Alabama if it wins out as well. If Alabama wins the SEC, then both Florida and LSU are out of the BCS Championship game picture because SEC fatigue may very well set in with the pollsters.
Would the BCS really pit a 13-0 Alabama against a 12-1 Florida? Or a 12-1 LSU (if LSU beats Alabama on November 3) vs a 12-1 Alabama (if LSU routed the East champion in the SEC Championship)?
The only obstacles left in USC's way are No. 9 Oklahoma, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 4 Kansas State. The Trojans do not play the Beavers this year, but if the Beavers win out, USC would have to play the Pac-12 Championship game in Corvallis since Oregon State will have had a better record than USC.
Corvallis hasn't been kind to USC. The last two times the Trojans traveled to Corvallis, they lost.
Kansas State is problematic for USC only if it runs the tables and goes undefeated. The Big 12 doesn't have a conference championship game while the Pac-12 does. Who would the BCS pollsters rank higher? A 12-1 USC or a 12-0 Big 12 champion without the benefit of a 13th game? Oklahoma already has one loss and although it's ranked higher than USC, it, like Kansas State, doesn't play a conference championship and will probably not finish above USC if the Trojans win the Pac-12 Championship.
USC can control its destiny for the most part. The ideal situation for the Trojans would be if every SEC team finishes with at least one loss, Oregon finishes the regular season with only one loss to USC and the SEC West champion loses to a two-loss East champion.
A 12-1 USC would make things very interesting. The SEC West isn't as deep as we thought it would be this year while the Pac-12 is a lot deeper than we expected.
While the Trojans lost early in the season to Stanford 21-14, USC wasn't full-strength—starting center Khaled Holmes was out due to an apparent ankle injury.
We may find out if it truly is better to lose early in the season than late.