I am beginning to bore reading articles putting down this year’s Trojans team as barely the best team in the weak and lackluster Pac-10 conference, and only marginally still in the hunt for the BCS National Title.
It shouldn’t take you too long to find an article saying the same thing, as all of the writers, from those in the East all the way to locals like Arash Markazi here on the West Coast, are dropping the Trojans like dead weight and non-contenders anymore.
In fact, I’ve now read multiple times that the Trojans have lost the “great” status and are now trying to stay on top of the “good” pile of teams that hover in the mid to back part of the top 10 teams in the country, as if they don't belong.
I am not one of the loyalists that suggests USC should be on top of the one-loss teams. They have earned their way into the No. 6 slot, and while you can make a case for them being ahead of one of the other three 1-loss teams, it's a hard sell to say that they're more deserving than all.
No, this is about respect.
I’m used to listening to the East Coast whiners, those who can’t stay up past mommy’s bedtime to watch the games on the West Coast, talk about how the Trojans are just dominating weaker opponents. I’ve listened to it for years, in fact.
But we're starting to see more and more dissenting articles from the thin stable of West Coast writers who have traditionally stood up to the early-to-bed East Coasters.
What's strange to me though, is that since Pete Carroll’s 6-6 start, the Trojans have absolutely dominated. The only place the Trojans have had any lapses is within their own conference, which until this year has consistently been a strong conference with many teams spending quality time in the Top 25 each year, and almost every year at least a team or two that flirts with the top 10 (besides USC).
And since a loss in September 2002 to the Darren Sproles-powered Kansas State Wildcats, the Trojans have only one loss against non-conference opponents. It was a loss to No. 2 Vince Young and his Texas Longhorns in probably the best game we’ve had in the entire BCS era, Texas 41, USC 38. Besides falling 10 seconds (and a freshman Brian Cushing tackle) short in that game, USC has manhandled everyone that they’ve played outside the Pac.
Would you like to run through the list to see for yourself?
- Nov 30, 2002 - USC 44, No. 12 Notre Dame 13
- Jan 2, 2003 (Orange Bowl) - USC 38, No. 3 Iowa 17
- Aug 30, 2003 - USC 23, No. 6 Auburn 0 (at Auburn)
- Sep 6, 2003 - USC 35, BYU 18
- Sep 13, 2003 - USC 61, Hawaii 32
- Oct 18, 2003 - USC 45, Notre Dame 14 (in South Bend)
- Jan 1, 2004 (Rose Bowl) - USC 28, No. 4 Michigan 14
- Aug 28, 2004 - USC 24, Virginia Tech 13 (at Virginia Tech)
- Sep 11, 2004 - USC 49, Colorado State 0
- Sep 18, 2004 - USC 42, BYU 10
- Nov 27, 2004 - USC 41, Notre Dame 10
- Jan 4, 2005 (BCS Championship Game) - USC 55, No. 3 Oklahoma 19
- Sep 3, 2005 - USC 63, Hawaii 17 (in Hawaii)
- Sep 17, 2005 - USC 70, Arkansas 17
- Oct 15, 2005 - USC 34, No. 9 Notre Dame 31 (in South Bend)
- Sep 2, 2006 - USC 50, Arkansas 14
- Sep 16, 2006 - USC 28, No. 19 Nebraska 10
- Nov 25, 2006 - USC 44, No. 6 Notre Dame 24
- Jan 1, 2007 (Rose Bowl) - USC 32, No. 8 Michigan 18
- Sep 1, 2007 - USC 38, Idaho 18
- Sep 15, 2007 - USC 49, No. 14 Nebraska 31 (at Nebraska)
- Oct 20, 2007 - USC 38, Notre Dame 0
- Jan 1, 2008 (Rose Bowl) - USC 49, No. 13 Illinois 17
- Aug 20, 2008 - USC 52, Virginia 7 (at UVA)
- Sep 13, 2008 - USC 35, No. 5 Ohio State 3
To sum this list up, that’s a non-conference record of 25-1 (counting the unlisted loss to Texas in the aforementioned Rose Bowl title game), including 11 games against ranked opponents and nearly half of those games played on neutral or opponents’ fields.
The Trojans outscored their opponents 1,105-408 through this stretch, with an average score of 43-16. Against ranked opponents the tallies are 459-237, with average scores of 38-20.
This is not a list that is collected by merely a “good” team, and it’s important to note, they are still delivering crushing defeats against non-conference opponents.
But a loss to Oregon State, and big losses to Stanford, Oregon State, and UCLA in the last two years as well, have left the rest of the country doubting USC’s dominance. Regardless of what other folks think, the Pac-10 is a very difficult conference to navigate.
This year is definitely a down year, but even still, Oregon State has jumped into the Top 25, due in large part no doubt to diminutive dynamite RB Jacquizz Rogers. Cal and Oregon have flirted in the lower part of the rankings this year as well.
After their blowout loss to Penn State, the Beavers have definitely turned their ship around, but they will probably falter in one of their remaining three games against the conference's only good teams remaining in the conference: Cal, (at) Arizona, and Oregon, leaving the Trojans to yet another Pac 10 Title (should they win out, of course).
If the Trojans end up in the Rose Bowl, they’ll likely play Penn State as an opponent. Nothing that I've seen from this year's Nittany Lions suggests that they'd be able to deal with the strength of USC on both sides of the ball, but especially USC's high-flying, run stuffing, and hard-hitting D.
Perhaps you noticed a trend in the list above; USC has absolutely dominated the Big Ten teams for years, including four of their last five bowl victories: Iowa in the Orange, Michigan in two Roses, and last year’s blowout of Illinois in the Pasadena Classic.
There isn’t a single team in college football over the last seven seasons that has put together such an impressive record.
In this stretch there are three Heisman winners, countless first round draft picks, and a ridiculous trove of personal and team awards. USC has become college football's most consistent program, putting together national contenders every year, with no preseason ranking lower than #3 since 2003, when the Trojans were ranked #8.
Even though USC has lost games to underdog conference opponents in five of the last seven seasons, they have still won the Pac 10 in each year, an unprecedented dynasty. They haven't left the top 10 in years, and only another loss to unranked Stanford, Notre Dame, or UCLA could make that happen.
Given Pete Carroll's undefeated record in November and UCLA's piss-poor year, I think USC will finish out against three teams who don't have the offensive firepower to challenge USC's wild defense nor the defensive wherewithal to slow USC's offensive weapons.
Long story short: Don’t count out USC, and don't ever think that they are anything but the elite of college football.