USC has managed to get themselves back on track and winning. After their 48-14 victory, USC is now 4-3 and on a much needed week off to regroup and prepare for their Thursday night game with Cal. The Trojans are starting to improve both offensively and defensively at the right time. While there’s plenty of football left to be played, the Trojans have a real shot at the Pac-12 south and there a few things that are playing in their favor.
USC playing well at the right time: Just when we thought USC was a total disaster after a 1-3 start, The Trojans shell off three straight wins. In those wins USC has managed to see their offense really improve as a whole and the defense get constant pressure on the quarterback. Two issues that hurt USC at the start of the season. If you’re looking for a reason to why USC has improved on offense then look no further than its quarterback play. Sam Darnold has given the offense a huge jolt since being announced the starter. His mobility has extended a lot of plays which has opened up the offense a lot. JuJu Smith Schuster has been getting a lot of targets and in 3 games has caught for over 120 yards. The defense on the other hand has made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks with their blitz packages. Consistently the defense has held teams under 20 points in their three games. We’ll see if things can continue to trend upwards.
Favorable Schedule: When the season began we thought the Trojans would have a real tough time with their schedule. That could be the case but lately the remaining teams on USC schedule have trended downwards while USC has trended upwards. Oregon, UCLA, and Notre Dame have all struggled this season and have shown no sign of improvement. USC still has to face a Cal who loves to pass and a Washington team that’s taking no prisoners. Nobody can overlook these teams at all, but if the Trojans continue playing the way they do then there’s no reason why they’re not playing at Levi’s Stadium.
Utah and Colorado still have a tough road: The two teams above USC in the Pac-12 south still have a tall task in front of them. Say USC takes care of business and win their games, they still need some help to win the division. Utah (who defeated the Trojans in week 4) and Colorado (who USC defeated) both lead the Pac-12 south with a 3-1 conference record. USC will need Colorado to drop one game and Utah to drop two in order to win the Pac-12 South. The good thing for USC is that the Utes still have to face Washington, a healthy Arizona State team, and Colorado on their schedule. Colorado on the other hand still has Washington State, Stanford, and Utah. Another scenario for USC would be a three way tie at 6-3 in conference. This is where things begin to get very muddy. USC fans would rather the Trojans beat everyone and get help from others in the Pac-12.
For reference the Pac-12 determines division winners first by conference winning percentage then by number of conference wins. If 3 or more teams in a division are still tied after that then here are the tie breaking rules:
“Multiple-team ties If three or more teams are tied atop a division at the end of the season, the following criteria are used to eliminate teams until just two teams remain, at which point the two-team tiebreaking procedure is used.
1. Head-to-head results (best record in games between tied teams)
2. Record in intra-divisional games
3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on the record in all conference games), proceeding through the division
4. Record in common conference games
5. Highest ranking in College Football Playoff poll entering the final weekend of the regular season”
The Key for the Trojans right now would be to get Utah to be knocked out of the 3 team tie-breaker scenario. If three or more teams are tied they use the above 5 criteria to knock teams out until they get down to 2 teams, then the head to head result would determine the outcome. Utah beat USC so they would still get the nod over the Trojans. USC has already defeated Colorado and Arizona State so if the three team tie breaker eliminates everyone but USC and either Colorado or Arizona State then USC will advance to the Conference Championship game. All of this may be moot, however, as there is still a ton of football left to be played.