Can Anyone Stop USC Football Now?

Bert HancockCorrespondent ISeptember 18, 2008

Though the USC Trojans were predicted to win over the Beanie-less Buckeyes last week, the degree of domination begs the question: Is anyone capable of beating Pete Carroll’s squad this year (at least before January)? Unlike some seasons, the Trojans possess both offensive firepower and a dominating defense.

Considering USC has won 39 of its last 40 at home, only dropping an inexplicable contest to 41-point underdog Stanford last season, it’s a poor bet to go against the Trojans in their friendly confines. You have to go back to coach Carroll’s first year (2001) to find another defeat there. That, too, was to Stanford. (At least they get the Cardinal on the road this year.)

USC also benefits from playing a potentially improved Notre Dame on the Trojans’ turf.

Possible home pitfalls include back-to-back games vs. Oregon and Arizona State (though the former was very fortunate to come away unbeaten last week and the latter’s fortune ran out against a suspect opponent). Oregon’s always dangerous, as USC found out last season in Eugene—losing to the Ducks, 24-17.

But that game reminds the only trail capable of tripping the Trojans likely leads away from home. Since Carroll revitalized the program starting in 2002, USC’s road stumbles include the Oregon game last year, at Oregon State and UCLA in 2006 (both are travel destinations this fall), at California in ’03, and at Kansas State and Washington State in ’02.

Oregon State, which hosts USC next Thursday night in Corvallis, was gutted by graduation (10 total starters back, only three on defense), and it showed during losses to Stanford and Penn State. Even in waking up last week vs. Hawaii, we’re hard-pressed to imagine the Beavers being able to upend the Trojans again. The ’06 squad that got the upset was much stronger than this one.

Following road tilts include Washington State, Arizona, Stanford, and UCLA. The Arizona Wildcats might have been more seriously considered with their high-scoring attack before falling to New Mexico last weekend.

It further stretches the faith to imagine Carroll’s squad losing to either of Washington State or Stanford this fall.

It’s a relative rarity for the Trojans to drop a contest anywhere, anytime. But, if it’s going to occur, the conference is nearly always the place to look. Since early 2002, they’ve lost just once outside of the conference—to Texas—bowls included.

The rest of the nation likely must look to the Pac-10 again to do the job the rest don’t seem to be able to handle. At least at this point, the odds seem highly stacked against that occurring.