By Ben Johnson - Special To SBNation.com
Trojan Rewind...Or Is It Trojan Unwind?
Football is the ultimate team game as they say and there are two people that touch the ball offensively on every play, the center and the quarterback.
All eyes focus on the importance of the quarterback for obvious reasons, but few begin to even recognize or understand the responsibility and critical role the center has for running the offense.
The nation received a full scale dissertation of that aspect of college football on Saturday afternoon on "The Farm" as Stanford dominated a USC program, that despite perception around the country today, is still in contention for the national championship.
Like coals in the fire, Stanford’s dominance was a long slow burn, undercutting the belly of the log all day long, until finally severing the core, burning the log in half.
The heat of the Cardinal line game was relentless.
But my message to Trojan Nation is the mark of a man is born in the storm for character is not cultivated when things are rosy and smiles abound. It is born when players face the reality that, like life itself, they are mortal and can be humbled in an instant.
Only then can true growth occur.
As the Trojans awake amid the reality of their situation this morning, they can take solace in the simple fact of life that things are never as good as they seem, nor are they as bad as they seem, somewhere in between reality lies.
But it’s what you do from here that will write the Trojan story of destiny. Make no mistake, our backs are against the wall, and many will hop off the bandwagon, but not me.
I’m all in for this team for several reasons.
The Trojans must face reality, and the reality for me as an experienced athlete, coach and administrator is the fact that the USC is still an elite program. Few around the country could have weathered a Cardinal ground game that focused on the one weakness the Trojans couldn’t do without...an experienced center to command the ship.
Nor could many have weathered a defensive front seven that finally had all their horses back after Shane Skov returned from injury and suspension, returning the Cardinal to full defensive strength.
The reality for the Trojans and one they must frame up directly in front of the mirror is that the national rankings mean diddly-squat to begin with. It is the one folly of college football that must go away.
Case in point - how could Stanford have been ranked 21st in the nation coming into the game when they’ve gone 24-3 in the last two and a half seasons, with losses coming to Top-5 programs in all three games (Oregon twice and Oklahoma State once)?
Sure everyone points to San Jose State (as Holly Anderson did over at CNNSI), but all coaches know that first games, especially with a first time starter at quarterback, are a crap shoot. All you can hope for is an injury-free win and some experience to gain as you move down the road of your schedule.
The simple fact of the matter is we shouldn’t have a grossly misdirected national ranking system in place at all to rank the teams after two measly weekends of college football, when most of the powerhouse programs out there (Florida State and Oregon) are playing FCS programs.
The Trojans, along with Notre Dame and UCLA, are still the only three programs in college football not to play a single FCS program. Three out of 120!
Give credit to USC for traveling 3,000 miles in taking on Syracuse last weekend, and give credit to the Trojans for playing about as poor as they have played in a long time (hat tip to Stanford), and yet still only losing by one possession with the game in doubt to the very end.
The Trojans, especially Barkley, may wake up today and feel like the sky is falling, but they played valiant, toe to toe, with a Stanford program that wore the USC defense down by limiting their offense to 1-for-13 on third downs and 26 yards rushing.
USC was about as one-dimensional as you can be yesterday, and still only lost by seven.
Last year we slept through the Alabama-LSU 9-6 snore fest, and the national media trumpeted the fact that this is how football should be played; the standard to bear for defenses around the country.
Well, don’t look now E-"SEC"-PN and SEC fans but there is plenty of college football atmosphere here on the west coast with USC and Stanford showing off an old-fashioned slobber-knocker of their own.
I’ll take the 21-14 with plenty of momentum swings over that 9-6 yawner that set offensive college football back about 50 years any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
If Tim Tebow and Alabama can lose early in the season games at home and yet still rebound to the national championship game, surely these Trojans can rebound from a tough road loss, 11 scholarships short and the heart of their offensive line missing in its loss.
There isn’t any other conference in America that takes on all comers, at home and on the road, and displays the variety off offensive and defensive strength than the "Conference of Champions."
The PAC-12 is willing to travel outside it’s own shadow, something the SEC to this day doesn’t like to do.
Oregon has been ripped for their schedule thus far, but few understand that it was Georgia and Kansas State that backed out of trip out west, rendering the Ducks to scramble to find Tennessee Tech and Arkansas State to fill the void.
When you wake up this morning USC, make sure you realize what you almost accomplished against a vastly, vastly, vastly, under-rated Stanford football program. A program that if they played in the SEC would be compared to LSU, Alabama or Florida and rightfully so.
A few minor adjustments and tweaks here and there and the sky is the limit. Don’t take that glass half empty approach with the wheels falling off...look at the game for what it was...a great college football game where one great team playing at full strength wore another great team at half strength down, and in the closing moments, won the game.
Character is born in the storm...It’s time for Trojan Nation to bounce back and recognize what a great opportunity we have in front of us with Barkley still chomping at the bit to write his Heisman moment.
I saw a Stanford program play about as well as they can play and barely won by 7. I saw a Trojan program at half strength, play about as poorly as they can play - and I give full credit to Stanford here - and yet they only lost by 7.
All is not lost, it is only waiting to be found!
The Bears better be ready, the Trojans will soon be on the rebound!