Should USC Get To Play For The Title With Their Schedule?

Gerald BallCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2008

Preface: this article presumes the exceedingly likely scenario that fewer than two teams will finish undefeated and USC and several other teams from the Big 12, Big 10, and SEC conferences will finish with one loss.

If USC were undefeated, I would not say much since no one impresses me other than Texas. (If Penn State beats Ohio State, I will happily acknowledge them. Having had the displeasure of being forced to see John Parker Wilson over and over again on CBS, Jefferson Pilot, and ESPN for the past four years, I will never acknowledge Alabama no matter what their record is. Good kid that John Parker Wilson is but not much of a player.)

But as USC will be only one of several very good one loss teams, why should they get the nod over everyone else?

If things play out as expected, Ohio State will be the only ranked team that USC plays all year. While it is true that USC opponents California, Arizona, Oregon or Notre Dame could put together a run, the truth is that there is little evidence that any of those teams have the talent to accomplish it, especially when you consider that the first three all play each other plus have the rest of the Pac-10 to worry about.

I admit that Oregon, by virtue of having already played USC, has a shot, but the truth is that if things hold to form Ohio State will be USC's only opponent with fewer than three losses. 

USC fans will retort that everyone else, especially the SEC, is overrated. I don't have a problem with that.

SEC offenses are dyspeptic, Big 12 defenses are sieves, and the Big 10 has yet to show that it can compete with elite edge talent. But at the end of the day, denigrating other conferences doesn't add a thing to what USC has accomplished when USC's victories are compared with the one loss teams from other conferences. 

Let us go back to the overrated SEC. Suppose Florida wins the rest of their games. You can call UGA, LSU, and Alabama frauds until the cows come home. And feel free to ignore that they played Hawai'i, Miami and FSU out of conference to focus instead on Citadel.

Even if it is all true, USC still won't be able to claim that they beat a better group of teams than did Florida. Case in point: the only SEC team to lose to a mid-major this year is 2-4 Mississippi State. The Pac-10 cannot come close to saying the same.

That is just the SEC. Truthfully, there is no objective way of saying that USC would be more deserving of a national title bid than an 11-1 Penn State (especially after you consider what PSU did to Oregon State) or an 11-1 Oklahoma. Am I saying "anybody but USC"? A thousand times no. In the unlikely event that an ACC or Big East team finishes with a single loss, I will not advocate a national title game appearance for them.

Why? Well to be honest, for the same reason that I do not for USC. Should Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pitt, or South Florida finish 12-1 or 11-1, they will have done so without beating very many superior teams. So why should they be advanced over teams that have?

I am aware that USC's excellence under Pete Carroll that causes us to presume USC's getting the benefit of the doubt for title games. Please understand how ridiculous this is.

Merely because USC is "the team of the decade" (a moniker that LSU, who lest we forget is 4-0 in BCS games including 2-0 in BCS title games, has some right to claim for themselves) does not mean that they are the best team in any given year.

Proof of this: FSU finished in the top five every single year from 1988 to 2003, but actually had a losing record A) to Miami and B) in national title games during that span.

Also, USC is clearly living off the accomplishments of Trojans of the recent past. Well please remember that those accomplishments weren't merely due to the Trojan uniform, but the players and coaches in them.

Those USC teams had Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at QB, Lendale White and Reggie Bush at RB, Dwayne Jarrett, Keary Colbert, Mike Williams, and Steve Smith at WR, and guys like Troy Polamalu, Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson, Darnell Bing, and Lofa Tatupu on defense. (More important, they had Norm Chow, Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin as assistants.)

Now maybe the players that USC has now have more natural ability, but they are not as productive, not as consistent, and not as good at stepping up when they really need to, and at least part of it is due to their coaches not using them nearly as well.

That 2005 USC team that nearly won the national title was the first in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard WRs, and two-1000 yard RBs. 

By contrast, this year's USC team likely won't have a single RB or WR reach 800 yards. Where LenDale White broke the Southern Cal TD record in only three seasons PLAYING BACKUP, this USC team has combined for only six rushing TDs. And the numbers that Matt Sanchez are on pace for, 2500 yards with 28 TDs and 12 INTs, are nowhere near what Leinart and Palmer put up.

Yes, I am aware that USC is No. 1 in scoring defense. I am equally aware that the next great offensive team that USC plays this year will be the first. USC's great stats on defense haven't exactly come against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, ok? 

At this point, there are several teams with the potential to finish with one loss that have a better claim for a BCS title game spot than does USC. I hope the pollsters remember this.