The weekly rise and fall of Troy
USC’s drop in the AP poll hardly goes without notice. With a victory over Minnesota on Saturday, the Trojans lifted their season record to 3-0. But despite maintaining the unbeaten status, voters continue to shovel dirt on the program, and perfection is currently buried twenty places deep.
At this rate of descent, the Trojans can defeat Washington State this upcoming weekend, move to 4-0, and spill out of the top-25. You can blame it on the lack of style points, but USC hardly stands alone when it comes to poor first impressions.
It’s one thing to sit beneath a one-loss Iowa team, but it’s another to lay under Miami, who has recorded one lone victory to date. I’ll agree that USC hasn’t earned any style points in victories over Hawaii, Virginia, and Minnesota. But the Canes’ body of work shows an embarrassing loss to Ohio State and a shutout victory over Florida A&M. There is nothing stylish in defeat, and a lopsided victory over an FCS program certainly doesn’t grant reason to boast.
If it’s about failing to make an impression, why is Wisconsin ranked eleventh in the country? After the narrow escape of Arizona State, the Badgers maintained the position they’ve held for the past two weeks. You may read the question as sour grapes, but the fruit sweetens with comparison.
The badgers held position for nearly blowing a game on their home field against a team projected to finish near the bottom of the Pac 10. USC has consistently fallen two places for each close contest played. Painting a more gruesome picture, Wisconsin’s opponents (UNLV, San Jose State, Arizona State) have a combined record of 2-7 on the season, with no victories recorded over FBS competition. Still, the voters find Wisconsin worthy of a No. 11 ranking, which is one place higher than the preseason position.
To put it in a better perspective, no team with a preseason rank lower than fourteen has ever qualified for the BCS championship game. The mountain is too difficult to climb for teams ranked any lower. USC began the season grouped with the other numerical contenders (though they aren’t eligible for the postseason). Since that time, and based on history, the Trojans, if eligible, would have slid to a position numerically out of contention, and for no other reason than starting the season—PERFECT.
Would it be different if there was no postseason ban? I think so. When submitting their ballots, the coaches don’t take USC into consideration, in accordance to the rule on banned programs. The Associated Press, on the other hand, didn’t have to abide by those rules, making Southern California an option for votes. But the underlying statement that has been made in the earliest weeks of this 2010 season is that those eligible to contend will get a free pass for lackluster performances, and the ineligible will free fall in their insignificant college football existence.
I don’t believe an undefeated and eligible Trojans team would be ranked 20th in the current poll. I believe the eligible men of Troy would have received a lot of flack, but held their position in the same way Wisconsin has.
In support of all I’ve said, I point to the earliest rankings a year ago. USC fell nine spots, from No. 3 in the country to No. 12, after losing to Washington in Seattle. The Trojans then jumped back into the top-10 the next week (No. 7), following a 27-6 victory over lowly Washington State. If this group of sanctioned and unblemished Trojans duplicate that score in Pullman this week against arguably the worst BCS conference program, it certainly will not lift them five spots in the AP poll, and will more likely have the opposite effect, allowing for further descent.