Well, that was ugly. Really ugly.
The USC Trojans were thoroughly dominated on the football field, against a rival in primetime nonetheless. This was never a game, from the get-go that was clear. Anytime USC showed the slightest glimpse of fight and good play, hope was quickly dashed by laughable mistakes.
One step forward, two steps back. Correction: One step forward, 100 steps back.
Every major flaw or weakness critiqued throughout the season of this Trojan team was put on full display last Saturday. Sam Darnold not the same player he was last year? Check. Darnold has a turnover problem? Check. Suspect offensive play-calling? Check. Weak offensive line play? Check. Injuries rearing ugly head? Check. Poor secondary play? Check. That is just the beginning of the list, really we could sit here and detail them all day, but you get the point.
It was in a sense, The Perfect Storm.
As backbreaking as Saturday’s game was, there is still plenty left to play for.
Let’s start by eliminating the obvious. USC’s playoff chances disappeared after their utter collapse in South Bend.
But what if they win out? Still, hell no. Of the five power conferences, the PAC-12 is the weakest this year. There is no way a two loss Trojan team could hope to sneak in past contenders like SEC: Alabama, Georgia (potentially LSU if they beat Bama next week) ACC: Miami, Clemson (potentially NC State) Big 12: TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Big 10: Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State barring one of these conferences has an epic collapse from their contenders, and I mean epic collapse.
There’s a 99.9 percent chance of being left out, please don’t hold on to that .1 percent, you’ll just get hurt again.
So, if not the playoffs, what’s next?
Clay Helton touched on this alittle during fall camp this year, saying this team was still hungry and upset that they didn’t win the PAC-12 championship last season. Here are the PAC-12 South standings as of today:
- USC 4-1 (6-2)
- Arizona 3-1 (5-2)
- ASU 3-1 (4-3)
- UCLA 2-2 (4-3)
- Utah 1-3 (4-3)
- Colorado 1-4 (4-4)
This weekend’s matchup has a very significant impact on USC’s chances to win the South division. If they can go into Tempe Arizona and fend off a red hot ASU team, that will give them a huge boost for the rest of the season. It doesn’t stop there, as Arizona will visit the Coliseum the following week, another Trojan win almost guarantees them the PAC-12 South division title (don’t hold me to that).
If the Trojans shake off their defeat and play to their potential, they will be PAC-12 South division champs. Plain and simple. Not saying it will be easy, but it can clearly be done. That would then move them to the PAC-12 championship game. There they would face off against one of these three opponents: #20 Stanford Cardinal, #15 Washington State Cougars, #12 Washington Huskies. The Trojans dominated Stanford early on this season, however both teams look vastly different since then. Washington State beat SC in a thriller at home not too long ago. Finally Washington, who looked dominant before they fell to Arizona State last weekend. Personally I don’t like the Trojans in any of these matchups.
The Trojans are already bowl eligible after they earned their sixth win against Utah two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the Rose Bowl is apart of the CFB playoffs this season, so a bid there is a no-go. Here are the PAC-12 bowl games in chronological order:
- Las Vegas Bowl: Dec. 16th, 12:30 p.m. on ABC vs. Mountain West
- Cactus Bowl: Dec. 26th, 6:00 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
- Foster Farms Bowl: Dec. 27th, 5:30 p.m. on FOX vs. Big Ten
- Holiday Bowl: Dec. 28th, 6:00 p.m. on FS1 vs. Big Ten
- Alamo Bowl: Dec. 28th, 6:00 p.m. on ESPN vs. Big 12
- Sun Bowl: Dec. 29th, 12:00 p.m. on CBS vs. ACC/Notre Dame
Personally, I think the Alamo Bowl would be a good bowl for the Trojans. Going up against a top tier Big 12 team would be an interesting matchup, although I fear the talented passing offenses in that conference might have a field day against SC.
At the end of the day, a PAC-12 championship is still incredibly important, but with the way USC is playing right now they won’t come close. They must be able to move on and find that same passion and fight they found a year ago after their miserable 1-3 start to the season. These next two weeks are vital to maintaining a successful campaign and it will show what this team is really made of.