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USC's BCS title-game chances won't be great now

Defeat at Stanford could be exceptionally costly because no Pac-12 team with one loss has reached the title game since the start of the BCS in 1998.

September 18, 2012|By Gary Klein

Time is on USC's side.

History is not.

The Trojans' 21-14 upset loss at Stanford, coming early in the season, does not doom USC from climbing back into the hunt for the Bowl Championship Series title. But even if the Trojans run the table and win the Pac-12 Conference title game, it still might not be enough to finish first or second in the BCS standings.

Consider: Since the start of the BCS in 1998, no Pac-12 team with a loss has reached the title game.

USC in 2004 and 2005 and Oregon in 2010 sported unbeaten resumes when they got to the championship game.

One-loss teams from Oregon in 2001, USC in 2003 and Stanford in 2010 were shut out.

But that doesn't mean the Trojans can't win a national championship — USC won the Associated Press title in 2003 — or that they are out of the BCS title-game picture.

As USC tailback Curtis McNeal noted outside the locker room Saturday night: "Alabama lost a game last year and won the national championship."

McNeal is correct, but teams that reach the title game with a loss most often hail from the Southeastern Conference.

Florida, for example, lost at Auburn in 2006 and at home to Mississippi in 2008 and came back to win titles.

Louisiana State lost two games in 2007, jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 in the final week of the BCS standings, and beat Ohio State for the championship.

Last season, after its 9-6 overtime loss to then top-ranked Louisiana State in early November, Alabama slipped from No. 2 to No. 4 in the Associated Press media poll and the coaches' poll.

Two months later, the Crimson Tide defeated Louisiana State for the BCS title.

USC has more ground to make up.

The Trojans dropped from No. 2 to No. 13 in the AP poll and from No. 3 to No. 12 in the coaches' poll.

So USC cannot afford to lose again if the Trojans want to make this a historic season. And if a one-loss Pac-12 champion makes it to the BCS title game, that would qualify.

Quarterback comparison

USC quarterback Matt Barkley began the season as the Heisman Trophy front-runner.

He enters Saturday's game against California ranked 41st nationally in passing efficiency, just one spot ahead of Cal quarterback Zach Maynard.

Barkley has completed 66 of 109 passes (60.6%) for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has had three passes intercepted, including two on consecutive throws in the Trojans' 21-14 loss to Stanford.

Maynard is 60 of 90 (66.7%) for 754 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions. Maynard completed 26 of 37 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown with an interception in Cal's 35-28 loss at Ohio State last week.

Barkley did not throw a touchdown pass against Stanford, only the fifth time in 39 USC starts he was blanked. Barkley has never gone two starts in a row without a touchdown pass.

Quick hits

Cal has not defeated USC since 2003, when the Golden Bears won in triple overtime at Berkeley. USC leads the series, 64-30-5. …USC was off Monday. The Trojans resume practice Tuesday.

gary.klein@latimes.com

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