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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

USC can't win for winning

Not even the Trojans' top-ranked defense gives them much traction in the BCS standings.

November 10, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer

The "system" keeps messing with USC football's mind.

It penalized the Trojans two spots last week after a 56-0 win over Washington but this week raised Southern California up a notch after an ugly grind-it-out win over Northern California.

The Bowl Championship Series on Sunday teased USC again into thinking it's a legitimate player in this year's national title race, when in reality the Trojans are stuck on one bank, looking through binoculars across the Bridge on the River Kwai.

How do they get across?

USC moved up one spot to No. 6 in Sunday's Bowl Championship Series standings -- thank you, Iowa -- but the system still stinks, Pete Carroll.

At least it still stinks for you.

It's approaching mid-November and Heritage Hall's pieces are not falling into place.

Not even USC's top-ranked defense can stop the BCS standings.

Alabama pulled out another squeaker, this time against Louisiana State, and Texas Tech is so far refusing to remember it's Texas Tech and collapse under the weight of the "what are we doing here?" syndrome.

Alabama and Texas Tech, both 10-0, remained at 1-2 in the BCS standings and remain obstacles to everyone else.

Texas is the new No.3, followed by Florida and Oklahoma.

Two schools from the Southeastern Conference and three from the Big 12 have, to use the basketball analogy, USC boxed out under the boards.

In USC's rearview mirror, at No. 7, is undefeated Utah. This nuisance, most years, would be like flicking a fly off your shirt, but this isn't most years.

This is the year the Mountain West has dominated the Pacific 10 Conference and the year USC and Utah have a common opponent in Oregon State.

Guess which team beat Oregon State this year and which team did not?

No one said the BCS is fair, or even works.

Florida lost at home to Mississippi this year but plays in a conference with enough juice to get the Gators pardoned for that sin.

Florida may yet have a chance to beat No.1 Alabama in the SEC title game on Dec. 6.

USC only has the chance to beat Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA.

For two years running, USC would have made it to the BCS title game, and probably won it, with one loss during the regular season. It was the second loss that killed the Trojans both in 2006 and '07.

This may be the year the first loss trumps Troy.

USC is only four spots from No. 2 in the BCS, and No. 2 is as good as No. 1, but it isn't as close as it looks.

USC might need four of the five teams ahead of them to lose two games.

Here's one way in:

Alabama wins out to finish 13-0 to nail down No. 1.

That would mean a second loss for Florida.

Oklahoma could hand Texas Tech its first loss on Nov. 22, and Oklahoma State could hand Oklahoma its second loss the week after that.

Texas A&M could shock Texas -- hey, it's a rivalry game -- and one-loss Texas Tech could go to the Big 12 title game and lose to Missouri.

There's your ticket in, USC, unless undefeated Utah sneaks to No. 2 on the strength of the Mountain West-versus-Pac-10 argument and the common-opponent result against Oregon State.

There are other back-channel scenarios for USC. If you have time at work this week, come up with your own.

Alabama could lose to arch-rival Auburn and then to Florida.

Start a chat-room thread from there.

If you want, call the entry: Thread the Needle.

Weekend wrap

Alabama is the third SEC team to hold the No. 1 spot in the 10-year history of the BCS. Tennessee and Louisiana State are the other two. Nov. 8 is the earliest date that the participants of the SEC title game have been decided. Florida and Alabama have already clinched spots to play Dec. 6 in Atlanta.

Stumping for Hawkeyes: Iowa's 24-23 victory over No. 3 Penn State prompted an immediate statement release from Iowa Gov. Chet Culver, who praised players by name and applauded "more than 70,000 fans who were on hand to show their support, and turn a cold Iowa day into one of the hottest things to happen in college football this weekend."

No word from Sacramento on whether California's governor is preparing a statement on USC-Cal.

A lot has changed -- not much of it good -- since September, when UCLA opened the Rick Neuheisel era with an overtime win over Tennessee at the Rose Bowl. The two schools are now a combined 6-13.

That was then: Twenty years ago this week, Notre Dame defeated Rice to go to 9-0 on its way to the national title under Lou Holtz. Saturday, Notre Dame fell to 5-4 after losing its sixth straight game to Boston College.

No surprise: Allowing California a field goal allowed USC to remain No.1 in total defense at 206.44 yards per game. The Trojans are also No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 6.7 points per game.

It's been a tough, hard slog for Oregon State, but the Beavers were rewarded for their hard work by making their first appearance in the Associated Press poll, charting at No. 23. Oregon State started the year losing its first two games, rebounded with wins over Hawaii and USC, lost to Utah and has since won four straight.

Oregon State is still not ranked among the top 25 in the BCS.

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