We begin with a fitting picture courtesy of one of our rival school's bloggers:
LIVE LOOK IN AT THE PAC-12 STANDINGS pic.twitter.com/GBtkbQEfUU— Carlos (@CarlosOnUCLA) October 12, 2014
If you've got nothing to do on Thursday night, Utah vs. Oregon State should be on your TV (if you have Pac-12 Networks or FoxSports 2). Somehow, in spite of everything that has happened in the past month, USC finds itself in first place in the Pac-12 South and with the Utes as their top challenger.
Having to deal with the white noise of the MUSS, Utah's student section, will make the Trojans' campaign in Salt Lake City next week even harder. USC has to find some sort of stability against Colorado this week and then watch this game closely for any sort of weakness Utah might show.
As for the rest of Trojan sports, it's been a mixed bag lately. Women's soccer hit a brick wall with home losses to Cal and Stanford, dropping the Women of Troy to 2-3 in conference play. Women's volleyball, meanwhile, found its home cooking by beating Colorado and Utah to get back in the Pac-12 race after losing four of their previous five.
It was the men's water polo team, though, that had the biggest weekend. The six-time reigning champs were triumphant in the SoCal Tournament, getting revenge on UCLA and Cal for beating them in the NorCal Tournament earlier this season.
A busy week means a lot of candidates for our Titans of Troy this week, though the Top Titan of Troy selection was a no-brainer:
5.) Katerina Berdousi
We start with some love for our women's cross-country team, who beat UCLA in a 5K dual meet at the Rose Bowl. Katerina Berdousi, a junior from Greece, came in first place at the meet with a time of 17:21, a new personal record. USC posted a team time of 1:30:01, 25 seconds faster than the Bruins and enough to give them a narrow 27-28 victory. The Women of Troy are set to race in the Pac-12 Championships in two weeks.
4.) Samantha Bricio
Samantha Bricio continues her run on our list by scoring a career-best 32 points in a four-set victory over Utah. She also served up eight aces in that match, setting a new school record for most aces in a single match. Six of those aces came in an incredible seven-serve run during the opening set.
This is the fourth time this year that Bricio has made at least six aces in a match, and the achievement earned her Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. She will look to continue her record-smashing hot streak as USC plays the Ducks and Beavers at home this weekend.
3.) Leonard Williams
It's always so much fun to watch Leonard Williams play up to his potential: eight tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble on a first-and-goal for Arizona near halftime, and a critical tackle that stopped the Wildcats from tying the game on a two-point conversion. The performance was so good that Todd McShay just bumped him up to No. 1 on his 2015 NFL Draft list.
2.) Mac Carden
In the final minute of the SoCal Tournament final, USC water polo found themselves tied 9-9 going into the final minute. Each team had one possession left. That's when Mac Carden received a pass from Kostas Genidounias. Carden turned around and - with hands and splashing water in his face - fired the game-winning shot into the left side of the net to win the Trojans their third straight SoCal title.
USC is now 2-2 this season against Cal and UCLA. This weekend, they will face Stanford for the first time this year in a MPSF road match.
Quite a few honorable mentions to go around...
Nick Bell - This sophomore was sidelined with an injury when USC lost to UCLA in the NorCal tournament, but this past weekend, he was the star of the game. Bell scored four goals against the Bruins in their home pool to lead SC to a 10-6 victory.
McQuin Baron - Water polo goalie made a combined 21 saves against Cal and UCLA.
Taylor Whittingham - USC volleyball's libero made a career-high 29 digs against Utah
The new helmets - Look, I know even the slightest change to the football uniform gets every Trojan's helmet plumage all frazzled up, but this does not mean USC is suddenly going to become Oregon. It isn't like the prototype black jerseys. It isn't even like the shoes they wore in 2012. This is a subtle tweak to modernize the helmets and those chrome facemasks look absolutely magnificent.
Of course, if the Trojans lose on Saturday, throw those helmets in a crate with some C-4 on it.
And now let's talk about the obvious Top Titan of Troy...
1.) Six Point Buck Allen
As the Badass Formerly Known As Javorius drove into the end zone for the first of three rushing touchdowns against the Wildcats, I and I can only assume many other SC fans asked ourselves the same question: Where would this team be without this man?
With 781 rushing yards and 278 receiving yards in the first half of the season, Javorius Allen has already eclipsed his 2013 season totals. He is the only player in college football that has more than 750 yards rushing and 250 yards receiving and the first Trojan to have at least five games with 100 yards rushing or more in a season since LenDale White and Reggie Bush in 2005.
Keep in mind that Bush and White produced those numbers behind an offensive line that featured Sam Baker and Ryan Kalil. Allen is producing these numbers behind a line with three true freshmen. Granted, they are three freshmen that have shown remarkable growth and skill in their young careers.
Viane Talamaivao in particular has contributed to Allen's numbers by opening up running lanes with pull and blocks. Still, there's a big talent gap between the glory years of Carroll and today, making Buck Allen's abilities even more jaw-dropping.
Allen has put himself in the running for the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Year award and possibly a contender for the Doak Walker Award for best running back. But...do we dare start thinking about the possibility of a Heisman Trophy?
Well, if we are thinking about running back candidates for the Heisman, Buck Allen should certainly be in the conversation. With Todd Gurley taking a fall from grace, the other rushers being tossed around for candidacy are Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah.
Gordon has six more touchdowns than Allen and has already passed the 1,000-yard rushing milestone, but only has 27 yards receiving. He is currently third in ESPN's straw poll, in which Allen has made his first appearance on the outermost fringes. The main difference? Gordon had preseason hype, Allen didn't.
Now, Allen can overcome this, but it's going to be a long road if he wants a trip to New York, let alone win the trophy. The first and most obvious requirement is that USC can't lose another game from here on out. USC is not Baylor, and the voters aren't likely to give a Heisman to a Trojan on a three-loss team.
Second, Allen will need huge numbers when everyone is watching. That means he'll need to put the Bruins and Irish through the wringer, but he'll also need to replicate his Arizona numbers against Utah next week. If he can get 175+ yards in a hostile environment with the division on the line, expect him to jump into voters' top five.
But the most important step is out of USC's hands: The two leading horses, Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota, will need to slip up hard somewhere down the road. Given their recent performances against Auburn and UCLA, that's not likely.
But hey, a Trojan can dream.