Valiant if not victorious

LOS ANGELES -- It was billed as the moment of truth for the USC Trojans and the No. 6 Stanford Cardinal. When close to 1,000 yards of combined offense stopped advancing on the ground and flying through the air, it became quite apparent that both Trojans and the Cardinal had just played one of the all-time classics in a bitterly contested rivalry.

In Stanford's thrilling 56-48 triple-overtime victory over the Trojans on Saturday night at a berserk Coliseum, it was clear that the Cardinal are, indeed, the real deal and still a major player in the BCS national title sweepstakes. It was also clear that Lane Kiffin has the Trojans headed back to national prominence.

For a game that had to have a winner and, unfortunately, a loser, it seemed to be a big-picture, win-win finale for both programs. The Trojans, however, would be the first to admit there are no moral victories at the University of Southern California.