Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turning Point 2006

Last January, just prior to the Rose Bowl, I posted an entry outlining the turning point games of the 2002 – 2005 seasons. The loss to Oregon State looks like this season’s turning point. A recap:

2002: Having lost in overtime the previous week to WSU, USC trailed Cal 21-3. The Trojans scored 27 consecutive points to win the game 30-28. USC blew out its remaining 7 opponents, including Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
2003: Again coming off an overtime loss, USC was down 17-10 at halftime to ASU. The Trojans scored 27 unanswered points to win 37-17. The team won its remaining eight games by an average of more than 26 points, including a Rose Bowl win over Michigan to win its first national championship since 1978.
2004: It was the Cal game again. With USC leading by six, Cal advanced to first and goal with less than two minutes remaining. The USC defense held, sacking Aaron Rodgers (who set a single-game record for consecutive completions earlier in the game) on second down and forcing three incompletions. The Trojans won their remaining eight games, including a 55-19 shellacking of Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
2005: After the Notre Dame game, Leinart finally shrugged off the pressure of maintaining a school-record winning streak and leading the team to an unprecedented third national title and started playing relaxed football again. The team won the remainder of their regular season games handily (except a close one to Fresno State), but lost the BCS Championship game to Texas.

2006 so far: Trailing 33-10 with less than 20 minutes remaining against Oregon State, USC scored the last 21 points of the game and narrowly missed sending the game to overtime when their 2-point conversion attempt failed with seven seconds remaining. Since the loss, USC has beat Stanford 42-0 and Oregon 35-10, thereby outscoring its opponents 98-10 in the last 140 minutes of play. There are two big differences between the Oregon State game and the turning point games of the previous four seasons. First of all, the game ended as a loss. Second, it came a little bit later in the season, but only by a game or two. This is not surprising considering the youth of this year’s team.

Of course, I had the benefit of hindsight last season whereas there are still three games left in the 2006 regular season. However, if recent history is any indication, and the trend that started late in the Oregon State game continues, Trojan fans have much to look forward to for the remainder of the season.

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