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Soft schedule and hard finish for USC?

September 22, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Don't dial the BCS crisis hotline yet, USC fans.

Everything, for now, looks fine and Vandy.

Stunningly, though, only one week after USC's dominating performance against Ohio State left the Trojans as overwhelming favorites to get to the national title game, the watchwords in coming weeks might be: Watch out.

Watch out for the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences.

Watch out for Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana State and maybe Alabama.

Watch out for voters and analysts getting amnesia about what USC did in its first two games and concentrating on what the Trojans do in their last 10.

Watch out for sloppy, uninspired efforts against Pacific 10 Conference pinatas Washington, Washington State and UCLA.

USC stayed on top over the weekend, but did you notice how the bottom dropped out?

The Associated Press poll, released Sunday, shockingly revealed no currently ranked teams left on USC's schedule.

The Pac 10's supposedly second- and third-best teams, Oregon and Arizona State, both lost and dropped out of the top 25.

The USA Today voting coaches kept Oregon at No. 22 after a home loss to Boise State, but how long will that last with the Ducks running out of quarterbacks?

USC is still on top, but what a drag the Pac-10 has become.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame, USC's last remaining nonconference opponent, was sniffing the top 25 until a loss to Michigan State opened the trapdoor.

USC has to hope it has built up enough prime-time equity to compensate for a crumbling Pac-10 foundation.

Even the Trojans' 52-7 win at Virginia has been somewhat offset by Virginia's follow-up, 35-point loss to Connecticut.

In 2004, USC, Oklahoma and the SEC champion all finished unbeaten and the SEC champion was left out.

You're nuts to think that's going to happen again.

Good as it looks, there is no guarantee that going 12-0 is going to get USC to the BCS title game.

Georgia, at 13-0, could not possibly be denied, nor could any other 13-0 SEC champion.

Georgia just walloped Arizona State, the team picked to finish second in the Pac-10.

Georgia has regular-season games left against current AP No. 4 (Florida), No. 5 (LSU), No. 8 (Alabama), No. 15 (Auburn) and No. 21 (Vanderbilt), plus a possible berth in the SEC title game.

USC still owns all but three first-place votes in the AP poll and all but five in the coaches', but some of those votes would no doubt move away from the Trojans.

On another flank, the Big 12, enjoying one of its best years, is the second-strongest league this year behind the SEC.

The Big 12 this week boasts four teams in the AP top 10, led by Oklahoma at No. 2.

Wouldn't you think a 13-0 champion from that conference would trump USC?

While USC is gearing up for Oregon State, which lost to Stanford, which lost to Texas Christian, No. 8 Alabama gears up for No. 3 Georgia in Athens.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma plays at No. 7 Texas on Oct. 11, the same day USC will be cleaning up on has-been Arizona State.

Soon, there will also be the BCS computers to factor in, and we fully expect them to factor out the Pac-10.

The flip side is that USC, by far among the contenders, has the best chance to go undefeated. It will also help the Trojan cause if Ohio State, led by star-is-born freshman Terrelle Pryor, keeps winning.

What USC really needs is fistfights to break out in the Big 12 or SEC, rendering a one- or two-loss champion -- not a far-fetched notion.

Just don't expect a repeat of 2004, when three undefeated teams left standing was good news for USC and Oklahoma and bad news for the SEC.

We get the feeling USC gets aced out this year in the same scenario.

Right now, ironically enough, it's USC, Oklahoma and the SEC again at 1-2-3 in the polls.

It's nothing to worry about yet, Trojans fans.

It's just something to think about.

Weekend Wrap

Last year Hawaii wondered all year whether a 12-0 record would be good enough for a top-12 finish and an automatic berth before sneaking in at No. 10. An undefeated Brigham Young is not going to have that problem. The Cougars, who outscored UCLA and Wyoming, 103-0, the last two weeks, are already No 11 in both polls.

There probably is no one-loss wiggle room for conferences without automatic BCS qualifying status.

It's assumed that losses by Fresno State, to Wisconsin, and East Carolina, to North Carolina State, have eliminated those schools from reaching the top 12.

What about a one-loss BYU?

"I really believe someday an 11-1 Mountain West Conference team can play in a BCS bowl," Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said recently. "It's not so far-fetched where it's like, 'What, are you crazy?' "

Memo to Thompson: You're probably crazy.

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