Washington upset and the impact on USC
The road is a dangerous place in the Pac 12 conference, and a recent trip to Seattle provided support for that statement. It was just twelve days ago that underdog Stanford upset second-ranked USC, taking full advantage of the luxury of playing in its own backyard. It wouldn’t take long for the victimizer to turn victim, as the eighth-ranked Cardinal would also stumbled in its first conference road game.
Washington defeated Stanford 17-13 at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night. It’s a victory that jolted the Pac 12 north, while also creating ripples that extend to the heart of Los Angeles. The Cardinal represent USC’s lone loss of the season, and acts as a road block that impedes movement in the polls. The unexpected result in the Pacific Northwest will lead to Stanford’s descent in the AP and Coaches’ rankings. And though idle USC cannot win a game this weekend, it may possibly lose ground in the polls.
It was a year ago that USC lost to unranked Arizona State, which resulted in AP voters dropping the team from the top 25 and moving the Sun Devils in. It would take 5 weeks, and a second loss by ASU, before the Trojans were able to leap-frog the team that beat them. The program encountered the same scenario after a triple-overtime loss to Stanford, with the Trojans unable to overtake the Cardinal until the final poll in January.
It isn’t unusual for voters to place a team of similar record ahead of another that beat them on the field, but an instant occurrence is unlikely in the case of Stanford and USC. Voters must first determine that Cardinal superiority on September 15th was fluke and not fact, and the evidence required won’t be found overnight.
The reality is that Stanford’s loss to Washington dealt a serious blow to USC’s aspirations for a 12th national championship. The Trojans weren’t eliminated from the race on Thursday night, but the degree of difficulty has increased. After all, this is the Pac 12, and not the SEC, where voters are less forgiving for early season mishaps. USC lost the upper-hand when it lost a game, and can only control the results of its own schedule. Other chips will fall where they may, and to springboard to the top of the charts, several would have to fall in Troy’s favor.
An impossible feat? —-Not at all. But based on history, and the national perception of the Pac 12 Conference, it is an improbable return to the top of the rankings for a one-loss USC.