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USC's Loss Changes Nothing

This article is written as a follow-up to a comment I made on Lisa Horne's article, The State of the USC Trojans.

"I enjoyed Kirk Herbstreit on Sportscenter tonight talking about how this loss proves that we shouldn't be looking past the regular season and projecting undefeated teams and BCS controversy and whatnot...He's saying that we shouldn't be doing the same thing that ESPN does every week.

"Now they're going to be talking about OU/Georgia/Florida/Mizzou/Penn State whatever running the table and creating a stir. This USC loss doesn't change the plot; it just changes the characters involved."

While watching Sportscenter on Friday night, Kirk Herbstreit was ranting about the effects of the USC loss on the national football landscape. He said that the loss proves that we should just shut up and play the games rather than spend our time making predictions on who deserves to play in the BCS Title Game.

Well said Kirk, well said. Of course, the Worldwide Leader is among the first to start making wild, unfounded predictions about college football. Was it Lou Holtz that predicted 11 wins for Notre Dame? Was it ESPN analysts calling this year's USC team among the best of all-time?

We make crazy predictions because it's fun. Fans love to say things like, "Tim Tebow is the early favorite to win the 2008 Heisman" before a single snap has been taken in the fall. It fosters debate, it gives us fans something to discuss before the season starts.

The 'Malice in Corvallis' does give us a few indisputable facts, though.

The loss did serious damage to USC's National Title hopes. They no longer control their own destiny, but recent history has taught us to never say never. After Ohio State lost to Illinois at the 'Shoe, we all thought their season was over.

But apparently if a butterfly flaps its wings in Columbus, the effects are felt in Morgantown. West Virginia didn't take care of business and Ohio State backed into the BCS Title game despite ending their regular season with a loss.

The game also provided a huge boost to an Oregon State team that had gotten off to a slow start. Watching the students rush the field, it was obvious that Beaver fans around the nation were going to be savoring that victory for a long time.

There is one key thing that the Oregon State/Southern Cal matchup did not do, and that's the entire reason behind this article.

USC's loss does NOT clear up the BCS picture at all.

There is going to be controversy at the end of the season just as there always is. USC's loss doesn't change the plot of the season, it just changes the cast of characters.

There are still at least nine teams that could finish the season undefeated and have a legitimate claim to compete for a BCS Title. I count Georgia, Alabama (that game won't kick off for a few hours), LSU, Penn State, Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma.

And to further complicate things, history has shown us that one-loss SEC teams (or even undefeated SEC teams) can miss out on a title shot even if they can make a legitimate case for deserving one.

The focus of the season will now begin shifting away from USC and turn to the big group of teams that at the beginning of the season were expected to fight for the right to play USC or Georgia for a national title.

Herbstreit says we shouldn't be attempting to figure out who will be in the title game, especially this early in the season. But if you tune into Sportscenter in the next few days, I guarantee you'll be hearing plenty of projections about what could happen if three of the teams that I previously mentioned are able to run the table.

If these experts were being completely honest, they would tell you that the only thing we can predict is the fact that there will be controversy. We have no idea which specific teams will be involved, but history has shown us that whenever the BCS is involved, plenty of teams will be unhappy.

We heard countless times after USC trounced the Buckeyes that the Trojans had the inside track to the national title. Nothing will change when the smoke from this weekend clears. Instead of USC, we'll be told that "[New no. 1] is the title favorite."

College football is a lot like American Idol. If our favorite gets voted off, we latch onto a new star and expect them to take us to glory.

We sometimes like to believe that as fans, we don't like the status quo to be upset. But just give it a few days, and we'll absorb college football's shiny new No. 1 team as if nothing had ever happened.

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