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USC Football: The Wild 2007 Season

A Season where USC entered the year with National Title Hopes Only to have it all change being on the wrong end of one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

Rose Bowl - Illinois v USC Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The 2007 College Football season was indeed a wild one, especially for the USC Trojans. Coming into the season USC was dealing with the tragic loss of kicker Mario Danelo earlier in the year as well as losing some key pieces to the offense in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin (left to take the Oakland Raiders head coaching job), All American center Ryan Kahlil, and top two receivers in Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett. USC did put together an outstanding recruiting class that was headlined by the late Joe McKnight and Everson Griffen.

With the top recruiting class in the nation, key players returning on defense, and John David Booty’s early Heisman talk USC started out the season as the top ranked team in the nation and an early national championship favorite.

USC would go on to win the first four games which included an impressive road victory in Lincoln against then ranked No.14 Nebraska and a narrow win in Seattle against the Washington Huskies. It seemed as if the Trojans would breeze through the rest of the schedule, right?

Stanford v USC
Stanford entered the game as a 41 point underdog against top ranked USC. They would defeat the Trojans 24-23 in what was deemed the second Biggest Upset In College Football History.
Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

October 6th, 2007 USC hosted the Stanford Cardinal who was led by Jim Harbaugh, who entered his first year with the Cardinal. USC came into the game as a 41 point favorite, so what could go wrong? Well Stanford’s quarterback Tavita Pritchard would toss a 10 yard fade to wide receiver Mark Bradford on 4th and goal to complete one of the biggest upsets in College Football history.

Yes, that in a way summed up the 2007 college season as a whole. Not only did the game knock USC out of the top spot of the BCS polls, but USC would lose John David Booty for three games due to a broken finger during the Stanford game, which ended his Heisman run. It also gave the Trojans their first loss at home since 2001.

Redshirt Sophomore Mark Sanchez would make his first start with USC against the Arizona Wildcats where he and freshman running back Joe McKnight led the team to a 4th quarter comeback to escape with a narrow victory at home. The next week saw Sanchez have a field day in South Bend against Notre Dame, where the Trojans shut the Irish out.

Unfortunately USC would suffer their second loss in late October to a rising Oregon team on the road. The loss would eliminate the Trojans from national title contention and appeared to put the Trojans in danger of losing their grip on the Pac-10 with Oregon, Arizona State, and Cal ahead of them. Many believed this was the end of the Trojan Dynasty, however given the theme of the wacky college football season, anything was possible.

USC would have their annual “No Loss November” under Pete Carroll as the Trojans would crank out victories over Oregon State, a narrow win on the road against Cal, and an impressive win in Tempe against Arizona State on Thanksgiving Night.

USC’s November run added with a couple of losses from the Oregon Ducks put the Trojans atop the Pac-10 standings. USC would defeat UCLA at home the next week to earn a share of the Pac-10 title, however thanks to the win over Arizona State the Trojans would once again be Rose Bowl bound.

On New Year’s Day 2008 USC would meet the Illinois Fighting Illini, who got into the Rose Bowl as a BCS At Large and the Rose Bowl wanting to keep its traditional Big Ten- Pac-10 match up. USC would have a field day against the Illini as Junior Linebacker Rey Maualuga and freshman running back Joe McKnight would show out and have an impressive game. USC managed to win the game 49-17.

Illinois v USC
USC would end the season with a 49-17 Rose Bowl victory over Illinois. The Trojans would as end the season at No. 2 in the Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the AP Poll, earning one first place vote.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

USC would end the 2007 season as NO.2 in the Coaches Poll and NO. 3 in the AP Poll with one first place vote. LSU, who also had two losses in the regular season and would win the BCS National Title over Ohio State.

The 2007 season was indeed a weird one, what started out as high hopes, ended with the Trojans in Pasadena once again. Had USC not lost to Stanford or Oregon then the Trojans fortunes could’ve ended with them in New Orleans facing the Ohio State Buckeyes as opposed to the team that handed Ohio State their only loss of the season in Illinois at the Rose Bowl.

To me, the 2007 season will always focus on October 6th. That Saturday alone changed things for USC and the Conference at that. As a USC fan the team’s 2007 season after the Stanford game was just a blur.