The prevailing thought among several observers is that the USC Trojans football team is wilting under the tremendous pressure of the 2012 season… as if the coaches, players and recruits were not aware that wearing the cardinal and gold comes with a lot pressure and high expectations.
The moment that quarterback Matt Barkley made the announcement that he was returning for his senior season as a Heisman Trophy candidate he was 1,639 yards away from being number two on the USC career passing list.
Several people viewed the 2012 season two ways for Barkley and the Trojans:
1) Heisman Trophy or bust
2) BCS National Championship or bust.
Suffering a disappointing loss to an unranked Stanford team on the road which was competing without the services of a guy named Andrew Luck (although it had several other good remaining parts) did not meet USC’s or BCS voters’ expectations. Subsequently, USC tumbled in the rankings from second in the nation all the way down to 13th – their second drop in a four-week old season.
As fate would have it, this past Thursday night that same Stanford team was beaten by the unranked Washington Huskies. It is always strange to watch how the perception of a team changes after even just one loss. The Cardinals controlled the line of scrimmage against USC but got handled by the Huskies… who were down three starters on their offensive line.
The truth is that the loss does not magically keep USC from being an elite team. What the loss should do is inform the nation that the Pac-12 conference is a strong conference from top to bottom with more than three talented teams. However, this does not change the fact that the BCS would welcome a one-loss SEC team into the big game long before allowing a one-loss Pac-12 team to play for a championship.
This further amplifies the fact that a playoff system is desperately needed. USC – like all of the elite teams in college football – plays better football in December than they do in September. It is a reality that, to become one of the nation’s elite college football teams, a group has to go through some struggles and overcome some adversity to come out on the other side as one of the best.
The best thing to come out of the carnage is that USC Head Coach Lane Kiffin and Matt Barkley did not come up with excuses, but rather owned up to the fact that they did not get the job done. They are fully prepared to accomplish all of the goals for the 2012 season.
This is USC’s bye week, giving several players time to heal as the team prepares to play again on October 4th in another hostile environment – Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah – against the Utes. USC might have found their identity a week ago playing against the California Golden Bears and rushing for 296 yards.
The USC Trojans have a lot of football ahead of them with 10 huge games remaining. The stories of their imminent demise are greatly exaggerated.