USC Shaking Up the Pac-12 and BCS
Share this article
The USC Trojans are now the perfect example of a BCS buster.
With all the what if's surrounding the BCS national championship, the Stanford Cardinal is now officially out of contention to participate in Pasadena on Monday 6 January and has faint hopes of getting there on New Year's Day.
Yes, if you took a sampling of Pac-12 fans, you'd find a surprising number of them value the Rose Bowl over the BCS title game.
Why? Because the Rose Bowl representative earned its place on the field. No rankings needed.
And now the Cardinal is on the outside looking in and will remain that way unless Oregon stumbles again. The Ducks still have to play Arizona in Tucson and host feisty rival Oregon State. It's possible.
After all, this is college football, and unbelievable things happen almost on a weekly basis. Consider Auburn's finish against Georgia:
You have to ask yourself: How do experienced defensive backs on a fourth down pass do anything but bat the ball down? You then don't have to ask yourself why the Bulldogs let this sort of play happen.
Meanwhile, back out West, I wasn't shocked to see Stanford fall. Maybe the rest of the country doesn't see enough of the Pac-12, but its nine-game conference schedule is a grueling gauntlet. And it's the key reason why the Cardinal now have the second toughest schedule in the nation, far outdistancing any team in the Top Five. In fact, look at them in Jeff Sagarin's computer calculations:
- Florida State ... 58
- Alabama ... 41
- Baylor ... 85
- Oregon ... 35
- Wisconsin ... 52
And now look at where the other teams in the Pac-12 rank in terms of schedule:
- Utah ... 1
- Washington State ... 3
- Arizona State ... 6
- California ... 8
- Colorado ... 10
- USC ... 12
- Washington ... 13
- UCLA ... 15
- Oregon State ... 26
- Arizona ... 39
It's why West Coast fans look at the haughty records in other regions and laugh. Year after year, in the Pac-12, it's a major achievement to emerge from a season with only one loss.
After an emotional win over Oregon, and with that triumph preceded by bruising games against UCLA and Oregon State, Stanford knew it couldn't afford any drop-off against yet another heated rival in USC. However, it came, in the form of a rare Tyler Gaffney fumble, two Kevin Hogan interceptions, and most crucially, a blocked field goal in the third quarter that ultimately would have put this game into overtime.
USC's sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler managed Coach Ed Orgeron's conservative game plan well enough to keep from making any major mistakes. Stanford only allowed 23 yards on the ground to the Trojans, and yet the USC defense virtually matched Stanford's in grudging resistance, yielding 337 yards of total offense to the Cardinal's 311.
The Trojan victory was sealed by André Heidari's hurry-up, game-clinching field goal with 19 seconds left to play. As the pigskin split the goal posts, USC reasserted the fact that it may be limited in scholarships due to probation, but it still has the talent to be a dangerous opponent to any team in the country.
Of course, it's taken interim coach Ed Orgeron to unleash that ability. He's done a magnificent job thus far. The team is 5-1 under his guidance and is well on the path back to where they should be: a successful and fearless collegiate football program. Not only did the Trojans silence their critics, but they also gave themselves a glimmer of hope in the Pac-12 title picture. They need to beat UCLA, and hope the Bruins and Arizona beat Arizona State.
That may sound remote, but this is the Pac-12. Those teams have run a nine-game conference gauntlet, too.