The Trojans can exhale now--at least until Thursday's visit by Stanford.
Still, USC players say they have made it through a crisis of confidence.
What USC needed Saturday was a sense of things once again going the Trojans' way. And they got that with an overtime victory at Oregon after overcoming a 12-point deficit with five minutes to play.
"If we had lost this game, we probably would have been out of the [NCAA] tournament," Jeff Trepagnier said. "Now we still have life. This game gave us a big lift."
The Trojans also have their biggest immediate goal in front of them this week. And it's not Stanford. It's California.
Even if USC upsets the top-ranked Cardinal, it needs to defeat Cal to sweep the season series. The Bears are two games ahead of the Trojans in the conference race for fourth place, the last so-called "guaranteed" NCAA spot for the Pac-10.
With four games left, the Trojans can envision a scenario in which UCLA defeats the Bears on Thursday and the Trojans win on Saturday, meaning USC only would be one game back going into the final weekend.
Cal finishes the season at Arizona and Arizona State, while USC travels to the Washington schools. Should the Bears split in the desert and the Trojans sweep in the Northwest, the teams could end up tied. If the NCAA selects only four Pac-10 teams, as it has done historically, USC should get the nod because of head-to-head competition.
It has to start, however, with a Trojan victory over Cal on Saturday.
And before that, a strong showing against Stanford on Thursday. USC can't afford a rerun of their last home game, an embarrassing 44-point loss to Arizona.