USC began the season ranked No. 1 in several preseason polls with expectations of playing for a Bowl Championship Series title.
Not even the most hardened skeptics anticipated the Trojans would be 6-3 heading into their final three regular-season games.
But that's exactly where the Trojans stand after giving up the most yards and points in their history in a 62-51 loss to second-ranked Oregon.
USC fans aren't the only ones disappointed.
So is Coach Lane Kiffin.
"With the players that we have, we should not be 6-3," Kiffin said Sunday during a teleconference with reporters. "There's only one person for that to fall on — that's me as the head coach."
A week after surrendering 588 yards in a 39-36 loss at Arizona, USC gave up 730 against Oregon.
After reviewing tape Sunday, Kiffin did not specify the Trojans' defensive problems against the Ducks, saying it was "a collection of a lot of things."
"Obviously," he said, "we could have coached better. And, obviously, we didn't play very well."
But don't expect an overhaul of the defense, which is under the direction of Monte Kiffin.
"You can't make major changes in-season," Lane Kiffin said. "That never works."
Kiffin, however, allowed that if the Trojans were to play Oregon again in the Pac-12 Conference title game, "obviously, we'd have some different thoughts."
Hold that snicker.
USC, which fell from 18th to 21st in the Associated Press media poll, still controls much of its postseason destiny.
USC is 4-3 in Pac-12 play. If the Trojans defeat Arizona State at the Coliseum on Saturday and UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 17, they would win the South Division and earn a berth in the Pac-12 title game, probably against the Ducks.
Arizona State is 5-4 and 3-3 in conference play after losing at Oregon State, 36-26. UCLA moved up to No. 17 in the AP poll after improving to 7-2 and 4-2 with a 66-10 victory over Arizona.
Not that Kiffin watched the Bruins help the Trojans' cause by routing Arizona.
"To witness what we witnessed [Saturday] in the Coliseum, and those numbers on the other side of the ball, doesn't put you in the mood to go watch other people," he said.
But Kiffin reminded his players of the possibilities Sunday.
"They can control the rest of their season," he said. "There's a lot of teams in the country that can't after everything that's happened.
"After screwing games up, we're fortunate to be in that situation."
Quarterback Matt Barkley said the Trojans would make the most of their remaining opportunities.
"We've still got a lot of football left," he said Saturday, "and the season is not over."
A week after producing 469 all-purpose yards against Arizona, USC receiver Marqise Lee amassed 408 against Oregon.
"I don't think Reggie [Bush] ever put together two games back to back like that," Kiffin said.
In 2005, Bush had 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State. In his next game, he rushed for 260 yards and had 13 yards in kick returns against UCLA.
Kickoff for Saturday's game against Arizona State is noon. The game will be televised by the Pac-12 Networks…. USC players are off today. The Trojans resume practice Tuesday.