USC Loses Grip on Pac-10; Rose Bowl Race in Chaos

Todd WilliamsCorrespondent INovember 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  Running back Toby Gerharrt #7 of the Stanford Cardinal stops in the end zone after his third touchdown of the game against the USC Trojans on November 14, 2009 at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.  Stanford won 55-21.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

For the past seven seasons, USC has either shared or won the Pac-10 title outright. With the Trojans unable to simply reload this year, the Pac-10 title chase is in chaos.

Five teams still have a legitimate shot at making the Rose Bowl this late in the season. So much for the Pac-1 Wac-9!

Going into the season, the Trojans were heavily favored to repeat as champions. They were dealt their first conference blow by a Washington team led by USC’s ex-coordinators.

It was a just a bump in the road, perhaps? After all, the Trojans have notoriously given up a game they were heavily favored in the past couple of years.

Then along came the Oregon Ducks, who simply put ran all over the Trojans defense and embarrassed Pete Carroll’s squad.

Putting up over 600 yards of total offense, the Ducks destroyed the Trojans in Eugene 47-20. It appeared as if the Ducks had ripped away the Pac-10 crown, and it was all theirs to lose.

A confident Oregon squad traveled to the Farm to take on the Cardinal. What they found was a hungry squad ready to prove that they the real deal this year.

In a display of two impressive rushing offenses, the Cardinal outlasted the Ducks to take home the 51-42 victory.

For a Stanford squad that had hiccups against Oregon State and Arizona in conference it was a chance at redemption, and to once again set the Pac-10 title race into chaos. Still, it had the feeling that maybe it was a fluke.

That proved incorrect, as the following week the Cardinal traveled south to LA to take on the wounded Trojans.

Once again the Trojans were susceptible to the run and were pounded even worse than they were by the Ducks, losing 52-21 in a game the clearly stated that this was not the same USC teams as years past. Also, this Stanford team just might be for real.

What that leaves us with is a Pac-10 race where the Oregon Ducks still control their own destiny, but are one loss away from putting the Pac-10 title race up for grabs again.

With games coming up against Arizona and Oregon State, it is not all that far fetched to think the Ducks could lose again.

What about this Stanford squad? With only the big game against California left in conference, the Cardinal look to finish out the year strong, and hope for a few upsets along the way.

They need Oregon, Arizona, and Oregon State to all lose a game at this point. It will take a certain sequence of events; Arizona over Oregon, Oregon over Oregon State; and USC over Arizona for Stanford to go to the Rose Bowl again.

Regardless of the outcome of the season, Stanford is going to be bowling again for the first time since the 2001 season, and coach Harbaugh should be up for coach of the year with the job he has done at the farm.

With only the Ducks and Wildcats controlling their own destiny with tough games ahead, it looks to be a wild finish to the Pac-10 season that could conceivably put Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, or USC in the Rose Bowl.

If nothing else, it is great to see a season where it is truly competitive and not just USC and nine teams scrambling for second.