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USC doesn't need a bed of roses this time

November 21, 2008|BILL PLASCHKE

Somebody has to tell him.

Somebody has to walk up to Granddaddy, shake his sturdy hand, stare into his clear eyes, and tell him.

He's probably already heard the furtive whispers. He's surely seen the rolled eyes. The dude may be 94, but he's still strong, and still smart, and probably already knows, so just tell him.

Hey, Granddaddy of Them All?

The USC football team doesn't need you. The USC football would be better off without you.

This season, for the Trojans, the Rose Bowl would be nothing but thorns.

No offense, Granddaddy, but this season, you're just not big enough.

All together now . . .

OSU our hats are off to you. Beavers, beavers, fighters through and through.

Now that the nocturnal, semi-aquatic species of rodent is out of the bag, every USC fan should feel free to root for Oregon State to win its last two games.

The Beavers would tie USC for the conference title, and, because they beat the Trojans, would go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years.

Freeing Tommy for bigger and better things.

We'll root for every man, we'll cheer for every stand, that's made for old OSU.

It's blasphemous, but basic. It's the opposite of everything Coach Pete Carroll preaches, but perhaps secretly just what he wants.

Oregon State needs Pasadena. USC needs something else more.

Now that USC's national championship hopes have been all but snuffed, the Trojans have to think about their national reputation.

The Rose Bowl can't restore it. A Big Ten opponent can't enhance it. Beating the hay out of a bunch of slow Midwestern kids for the fourth time in six years won't cut it.

"We are getting kind of tired of that," said Kyle Moore, a senior defensive lineman. "I think we know we're faster than them by now."

The Trojans, who could be kept out of the national-championship game by another one-loss team, need to play somewhere that could persuade the BCS machine to never allow that to happen again.

They need to play somewhere that could persuade next year's voters to give them a strong preseason ranking and early benefit of the doubt.

The Trojans' mojo is hurting. The Pac-10's street cred is failing. Either of two games could fix both.

The Trojans need to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas Tech, Texas or Oklahoma.

Or they need to play in the Sugar Bowl against Florida or Alabama.

Said Moore: "I think about that all the time."

Said linebacker Clay Matthews: "Sure, we watch those teams on TV, and we wonder."

Either place would work. Any of those opponents would be perfect.

In the first scenario, USC would have a chance to prove that the high-scoring Big 12 teams play video games, not football games, and that one good punch could crash them.

"We've seen those scores, and it doesn't seem real," said Moore, part of a defense that is the best in the country. "You score 50 points, that's great, but if you give up 30 points, what does that mean?"

In the second scenario, USC could finally address the Deep South-West Coast football feud that has raged since the Trojans shared the national title with Louisiana State after the 2003 season.

"We need to put that Pac-10-SEC stuff to bed," Moore said. "We need to shut it down now."

If they won such games, the Trojans could show the increasingly skeptical college football world that they are still the nation's best program even as their conference is crumbling around them.

More important, they would set the stage for a top ranking next season while creating memories strong enough that maybe next year, their title hopes could survive a single defeat.

"I've always said that the early rankings are based on last year's team," Carroll said. "So there's something to that."

And if they lost, well, at the very least, it would make for the sort of giant TV ratings that help the giants in recruiting.

"Those are the kind of games everybody would be watching," Moore said.

Carroll could not endorse rooting for a spot in the Fiesta or Sugar, not after the Trojans have spent much of the last decade declaring their love for the Rose.

But he did admit that some of the fans are rooting against Granddaddy.

"Yeah, I've heard some of that," he said.

And he did acknowledge that anything was possible.

"Our goal is always the Rose Bowl, but, if we get sent elsewhere, like anything, we would welcome the challenge," he said.

But first, two more challenges.

USC must win its last two games to be available for Fiesta or Sugar picking. Considering they are playing Notre Dame and UCLA, two teams who probably couldn't beat the Trojans with their rosters combined, it shouldn't be much trouble.

Harder, though, is Oregon State winning its last two games, at Arizona and at home against Oregon.

Do they have the experience? Can they survive the heat? How crazy is this college football season when Trojans fans should spend the final two weeks of the season cheering for the only team that beat them?

As for Granddaddy, well, the Trojans ask for his forgiveness and patience, because they are really doing all this for him.

If USC beats a high-profile opponent in a highly rated bowl game in January, the program could use the momentum to propel itself back to the national-championship game next season.

A game being played at, you guessed it, Granddaddy's stadium.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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