This college football season is looking like almost all those before it. Conventional wisdom is meaningless, and teams will continue to fall. And because of this, there is opportunity for the Trojans. But it won’t be easy.
With USC winning on Thursday night in Salt Lake City, the Trojans -- and their fans -- had the weekend to watch plenty of other college football games and think about the possibilities ahead. Florida State, LSU, Georgia and Texas -- all teams ranked ahead of the Trojans going into Saturday -- went down to defeat. And now USC sits at No. 9 in the coaches’ poll. And while they may not control their destiny as they did at the beginning of the season, the odds are better that, if they win out, they could head to Miami for the national championship game.
Of the eight teams ahead of the Trojans in the poll, four are in the SEC, two are in the Big XII and the other two are on USC’s schedule in November. Only one team can come out of each of those two conferences undefeated, though it’s entirely possible (if not probable) that no team will emerge from either conference unscathed. Alabama, South Carolina, Florida, and LSU may all inflict losses on one another. The same holds true of West Virginia and Kansas State as they battle through the Big XII. So if USC can run the table, the question may become a simple one: which two teams impress the voters enough to end up Nos. 1 and 2? If the Trojans take down a No. 2 Oregon and a top-10 Notre Dame team, they could have the chance to defeat a top-10 Pac-12 North squad in the conference title game. So the opportunities are certainly there for the Trojans to get impressive victories on a big stage and end up claiming one of those two spots.
While this may bring smiles to the faces of the Trojan faithful, the road ahead may be as hard for the Trojans as it is for any of the eight teams ahead of them. The Trojans had a nice comeback against Utah, but -- despite the poise and accuracy of Matt Barkley -- this Trojan team has still not played to the level it will have to in order to beat Oregon, and it will certainly face other challenges with a deep Pac-12 providing tough tests every week. The Trojans must keep improving in the trenches and in the secondary to hit their stride. But if this season truly does turn out to be like the ones before it, then this is the time for the Trojans to do just that.
And it all starts with Washington.