Friday, January 25, 2008

It Was Fun While It Lasted

This is what I wrote and intended to post under the heading "It Was Fun While It Lasted" after USC's last loss to Oregon on October 27:

First of all, USC can still finish 10-2 and go to a BCS bowl, so there's plenty to play for. Although the Trojans lost to Oregon last Saturday, their play demonstrated that USC can beat anybody if they eliminate costly mistakes such as red-zone turnovers and big penalties. That includes Oregon State, Cal, Arizona State, and UCLA, the four remaining teams on USC's schedule.

Nevertheless, the Trojans five-year reign over the Pac-10 has unfortunately come to an end. After last Saturday, there is no longer any question that the Trojans have descended from their perch as the dominant program in college football to being merely a 'good' team. As fans, it hurts so much because we know how it feels to be at the top.

At a time like this, it is critical to maintain perspective. As disappointed as we all are right now, we are seven years removed from the darkest days of USC football, before Pete Carroll arrived to lead the Trojans back from irrelevance and mediocrity. The program is incomparably stronger than it was in 2000. USC has not lost its potential to be a great team and there is no reason to believe USC will not continue to compete for Pac-10 and national championships every year.

I don't remember why I didn't follow through with the post (I probably determined it was excessively negative), but having not deleted the draft provides insight into my thinking at the low point of the 2007 season. Clearly, I jumped the gun in giving up on the Pac-10 title and overreacted regarding the Trojans' status in college football. However, until Oregon lost Dennis Dixon, it looked like the Ducks were going to roll through the rest of the conference and into the BCS National Championship Game, where they would have been this year's selection to beat up an over-matched Ohio State team, instead of LSU. So, USC probably owes its sixth consecutive Pac-10 title to Oregon's misfortune (as does LSU its BCS title). Of course, the Trojans had more than their fair share of injuries to overcome.

My thinking was on the mark in other aspects, including my assessment of the team's chances against the remainder of their schedule. Happily, the team also believed there was still plenty to play for, regrouped, and finished the season impressively. Consequently, the 2007 season was "successful", based on my arbitrarily-defined criteria, and the Trojans appear poised to again contend for the national championship in 2008, just as I predicted.

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