Beauty contest beat-downs?

You could see this coming a mile a way. Those who vote in the polls can be a fickle bunch, as some who moved USC up in the polls might be taking a second look. 

Case in point: Matt Hayes of the Sporting News...

No. 1 USC: Bear with me, everyone. The purpose of the poll isn't necessarily to slot teams/increase-decrease value as they win or lose. It's to define an entire body of work. Which win(s) looks better this fall: LSU at Auburn, Georgia at Arizona State or USC at home against Ohio State?

I think we can all confidently agree that this Ohio State team -- at least after four weeks -- is a shadow of the Buckeye teams that deserved to play in the past two seasons' national title games (no matter how much everyone whines). So the Trojans blew out Ohio State. Yeah, so? See where I'm headed? And don't even get me started about Virginia, which is just God-awful.

Can you say "buyers' remorse"?

This is a way to set-up for USC to be the odd man out if there are more than two teams undefeated, or if there is a one-loss team with a theoretically stronger-schedule record at the end of the year.  The rationale will be that the weak Pac-10 this year doesn't count for much, and that the out of conference teams that USC has played were less than advertised.

There are logical flaws all through this thinking, and it's because of the early season rush to judgment. Look at the rankings and tell me where is the logic in all of this:

  • USC gets ranked #1 for beating Virginia and Ohio State
  • However, Virginia sucks, and the 20 starters that came back to Ohio State had their mojo stolen
  • The SEC continues their tradition of scheduling FCS teams to pad wins but that doesn't stop LSU, UGA, Alabama, or UF from looking like world beaters
  • The Pac-10 just blows - hell, Arizona State lost to UNLV, but...
  • Georgia came to Tempe to play, as Hayes states, "a quality opponent in a wild atmosphere"

Hayes needs to make up his mind who sucks and who doesn't, and why. If Hayes is going to praise UGA for traveling to Tempe he should then praise SC for traveling to Charlottesville - because apparently distance cancels suck, in his view.

This isn't about starting another fight about conference strength: no-one is disputing that the SEC plays some fine football and that there are some absolutely knock down drag out games between some of the top teams in the conference. But when you play the team A beat team B who (almost) lost to team C game, you look at LSU beating an Auburn team that barely beat Mississippi State,  and Georgia beating an Arizona State team whose only wins came against Northern Arizona and Stanford. So far I guess I am not seeing the consistency in Hayes' logic.

This comes back to the weakness of early season polls. I thought that SC was ranked too high for going #1 after the Virginia game, it was too soon. It may still be too soon, in fact - we're still waiting for SC's third game.

As I noted earlier USC needs to get through the Pac-10 in convincing fashion. Everyone is saying it in just about every article I read. I have seen it on message boards and in the traditional media. USC needs to keep the pressure on the rest of the conference and doubly so on Notre Dame!

But what does that mean in reality? Does it mean that to convince voters, USC is going to have to channel their inner Urban Meyer and play for style points as well as the win? I realize that margin of victory means nothing to the computers but with lazy voting from coaches and writers who can't possibly see all the games, you have to wonder if they will respond well to clear messages in the form of lopsided wins.

With strong teams in the SEC and the Big 12, in other words, you could argue that USC has no choice but to essentially run up the score on any and all of their upcoming opponents, and make it a beauty contest beat down. That to me seems stupid for the polls, and disrespectful to our opponents (except ucla and Notre Dame who would do the same to us), and I'm pissed that this how people are thinking before it's even October.

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