Trojans adrift on uncharted waters

Now that my period of sulking  has ended, I can finally touch on some of the recent issues surrounding the Trojans. What’s become evident over the past few days is that USC, be it national title contenders or conference pretenders, still receives a lot of press.

I really shouldn’t reference the current state of the program as “drifting on uncharted waters”, because I’ve ridden these waves before. But in those nine years since the Trojan vessel last escaped the storm, Troy has obtained fans either too young to remember, or those of the bandwagon variety that manned the oars after the fact. The current situation isn’t new to USC, and neither will be the rise that often follows. But reconstruction requires patience, because any quick fix remedies are curtailed by the existence of sanctions.

Where to start?

For the first time since 2001, USC is absent from an AP in-season poll. This comes on the heels of the Trojans first home loss to the Washington since ’96. Over the years, we’ve seen similar poll extractions in places like Alabama, Miami, Florida State, Nebraska, and Michigan, before those programs took their lumps and climbed back on the ladder.

But unlike those programs, the polls don’t mean much (if anything at all) to USC, considering it is banned from the postseason. A string of top-10 finishes is statistically great, and allows for bragging rights over other programs. But outside of coaches collecting bonuses as part of incentive packages, the only numbers of importance on a 25 position ranking is No. 1 in the AP and the two top spots in the coaches’ poll.

The Trojans falling out of the top-25 is damaging to the hometown ego, but it is more catastrophic for conference members in the national championship hunt. Oregon has climbed to No. 3 in the latest polls, in a controversial leap-frog of Boise State. But if the Ducks expect to occupy one of the seats in the BCS championship game, they need to be impressionable enough to overtake Ohio State or Alabama, if all three finish with equal records.

Not only does Oregon need ranked opponents to feast on throughout the season, they also need the name recognition that comes with USC. The Trojans have scored signature victories against high profile opponents over the past few years, and were never given credit for in-conference triumphs. But the story is opposite for Oregon teams, with their most noted and impressive victories coming in upsets of Southern California. The national brand will always be there, but a Trojans team barely above .500 would provide little assistance to the quack attack.

Have no fear…

When USC travels to Palo Alto this weekend, it will be the first time it enters a contest as the underdog since October of 2007. That was a game that saw Mark Sanchez in his third collegiate start in place of the injured John David Booty. A late interception preserved the victory for Dennis Dixon’s Ducks, and the Sanchize suffered his first of two career losses.

Since 2001, Stanford has been one of the more successful teams against USC, though it has won just thrice in nine meetings. USC’s 35-game home winning streak came with bookends provided by the Cardinal. But surprisingly, the northern nemesis hasn’t been victorious on its home field since 2000.

Vegas is expecting that to change this weekend, with USC opening as a 10-point underdog against the Cardinal. I would give you the Trojans’ statistical figures in games played as the dog, but unfortunately, it is such an uncommon occurrence in recent years that there isn’t any relevant data to provide .  In other words, I’m too damn lazy to sift through twentieth century pairings.—and can you really blame me?

Bradford Rising

“Allen Bradford hasn’t solidified his role as USC’s featured back, but NFL scouts aren’t waiting (and don’t care) for Lane Kiffin’s decision. After pounding his way for 223 yards against Washington, the Senior tailback is now climbing on draft boards.

“Bradford now is in the upper echelon of senior backs, and if able to maintain this level of play through the season and Senior Bowl, he will drafted ahead of some bigger-name backs. He lacks premier speed, so he might not receive a ton of pre-draft hype next spring, but scouts for NFL teams say he climbing up their boards, too”.–Sporting News

Bradford is most comparable to Chauncey Washington, who wasn’t picked until the seventh round in 2007. The difference between the two is that Chauncey really didn’t make an impression while at USC, and caught the eye of draft scouts later in pre-draft events.

Neuheisel discovers America

Leave it to Rick Neuheisel to state the obvious. The UCLA skipper came out and said there is an east coast bias in the polls.—Ya don’t say?!?

When poll position is the least of your worries, I guess it’s easy to overlook the obvious. But I would think he would have been aware while at Washington and Colorado, since these biased opinions didn’t simply arrive with a 2010 ball dropping over Times Square.

Then again, maybe Slick Rick felt his team deserved to be ranked for the victory over Texas, which now compels him to speak up.

Bottoms Up

Former Trojan Dwayne Jarrett is no longer employed by the Carolina Panthers. The wide receiver made a swerving exit, soon after his second arrest for driving while impaired. The final score reads:  DWI 2, Career TDs 1.

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~ by Anthony on October 6, 2010.

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