USC let a golden opportunity slip away on Saturday night as Kenjon Barner ran wild en route to a shootout victory for Oregon. While the disappointment will linger, the Trojans must find a way to rebound against Arizona State to remain in the BCS hunt.
The Trojans defense continues to struggle mightily, giving up 101 points over the last two weeks and showing absolutely no signs of improvement. They don't need a lot of big stops due to Matt Barkley and his playmakers on offense, but they are getting basically none.
Every time USC would get back within striking distance against the Ducks, the national title contenders would go on another long drive to squash any comeback hopes.
Most of the time, they made it look pretty simple.
Even though Oregon possesses the nation's most explosive offense at more than 54 points per game, the Trojans should have enough talent on defense to at least put up a fight.
For whatever reason, talent hasn't translated into success this season.
With that being said, all hope is not lost. USC still has an outside chance to crash the BCS party if it can bounce back over the next few weeks with wins over Arizona State and UCLA to claim the Pac-12 South crown.
The challenge for head coach Lane Kiffin is clear. He must get his players to leave the Oregon loss in the past and focus at the opportunities that remain.
It sounds easy, but with just six days to make it happen, it's anything but.
Remember, the season began with talk of a national championship and maybe even the Heisman Trophy ending up in the hands of the Trojans and Barkley respectively. Now they have to win two games just to get another shot at Oregon and the BCS.
Getting college players to buy in again after watching their main goals slip away is a terrific test for a coach. It's all about handling adversity and getting back on track in short order, not letting a disappointing loss lead to a downward spiral.
The response must start on Saturday against the Sun Devils. Arizona State is on a losing streak of its own, dropping three straight games to conference opponents, which wiped away the team's strong start in Pac-12 play.
In other words, it's really a last stand for both sides. Once again, the onus falls on the Trojans defense to rise to the occasion.
Barkley, Silas Redd, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee should have no trouble handling their end of the bargain. It's up to players like Wes Horton, Nickell Robey and T.J. McDonald to shut down a Sun Devils offense averaging 27 points per game.
If they do it, the Trojans will head to UCLA with a chance to earn another chance at the Ducks. If not, the season will turn into an even bigger disappointment. It's really that simple.
Now fans just have to sit back and see how the team reacts to the pressure.
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