USC Football 2009: Salvaging a Silver Lining

travler8Correspondent INovember 2, 2009

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 31: Quarterback Matt Barkley #7 of the USC Trojans is not happy after missing an open receiver in the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 31, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

I've been watching college football for long enough to learn not to get too high, or too low. In the recent past, I've endured 13 straight losses to the Irish, a similar streak to the Bruins, then watched it all turn around with rise of the Pete Carroll-led Trojan dynasty that has reigned from 2002 to the present.

I'm here to tell you it's not as bad as it seems.

Sure, the loss to Oregon was the worst since 1997. It was the worst loss of Pete Carroll's career. It was the largest number of rushing yards given up by the Trojans since a 1977 Bluebonnet loss to Texas A&M.

Worse still, it was the most yards the Trojans have given up since a 1946 meeting with the Irish. Indeed, the loss to Oregon this last Saturday was an epic beating, on national TV, in prime time.

Kudos to the Ducks, who must now go out and dispel the notion that the Pac-10 is "USC and the Little Nine," as so many of its detractors like to say. Go forth and take care of business, Ducks. Represent.

Of course, the Ducks will likely be representing the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl, against either Iowa or Penn State. For USC, another matchup with Iowa or Penn State would present a "been there, done that" scenario. Sad to say, but with all of USC's recent success, another trip to the Rose Bowl against the Big-10 would likely be a ho-hum affair.

Which is why the loss to Oregon presents the Trojans with the opportunity to salvage a silver lining—and deliver a beating to a very deserving SEC team.

Should USC win out and finish the season 10-2, there is a very real possibility the Trojans would garner an at-large bid for one of the other BCS bowls. And I've got one in mind: the Sugar Bowl, against either Alabama, LSU, or Florida. Either Alabama or LSU will win the SEC West. We will likely know by next Saturday night. Florida may have already won the SEC East.

So much for "parity" in the SEC.

In any event, I like all three prospects. Let me explain why.

If it's LSU, I say great. The LSU Tigers and their fans have been belittling both USC and the Pac-10 for years now, even if the Tigers' 3-5 conference record last season muted such talk, if only for a year.

With their success this year, the trash-talking Tigers are back and I can think of few things sweeter than taking LSU to the woodshed in front of 90,000 Tigers fans on their home turf in New Orleans. I was there for the beat-downs at Auburn and at Arkansas. Trust me. There's nothing like it.

Then again, if it's USC vs. Florida, I'm all for it, and I won't be alone. College football fans from coast to coast have been itching to see these two powerhouse programs go at it for at least the last two, if not, three years. It hasn't happened, which is a damn shame if you ask me, because I think over the last three or four years Florida and USC have been THE two premier programs in college football. There is a score to be settled with the Gators.

Finally, there is my preference, and in my view the best storyline of the bunch: USC vs. Alabama. Both teams sit atop the college football world when it comes to a history of greatness in bowls. There are 120 FBS schools. Fully 118 of them look up at USC and Alabama when it comes to bowl victories.

Think Florida has a storied bowl history? Wrong. The Gators are a pedestrian 17-19 in bowl games. How about LSU? A slightly better 21-18-1. Ohio State? The Buckeyes post a record of 18-22. Mighty Michigan, with more regular season wins than any other program, hasn't seen that success translate into the postseason. The Wolverines are an unimpressive 19-20 in bowls. Texas is 25-21-2. Oklahoma is 24-17-1. Georgia is 25-16-3, and Tennessee is 25-22.

All play second-fiddle to the Tide and the Trojans. Should Alabama lose the SEC title game (and assuming that the SEC winner, Florida, goes on to the national championship game), the Tide could very well end up invited to play in the Sugar Bowl, where they gave up the crown as the nation's winningest bowl team just this last year.

An Alabama-USC matchup would be truly historic. Alabama would come into the Sugar Bowl with a very impressive 31-22-3 bowl record.

The Trojans would line up with a stellar 31-16 record.

Someone would get their 32nd bowl victory. As the saying goes, "There can be only one."

So there you have it, Trojan fans. I know you're hurting, and rightfully so. USC has a lot of work to do, especially at the linebacker position. But it's not all bad. Instead of another—increasingly boring—USC blowout of a Big-10 school, we might just get the opportunity to travel to New Orleans and take out some pent-up frustration on an SEC team.

If that happens, look out. It will be a "conversation-changer." Until then, keep your chin up, and fight on!