Game 8 wrap-up: snatching victory in defeat
Stanford 56, USC 48 (3OT)
It took three overtimes for Stanford to eventually win the war, but before a nationally televised audience, the Trojans did manage to score a major victory in the battle of perception.
Few, if any, gave USC a fighting chance against the nation’s fourth ranked team. Predictions ranged anywhere from a two to three touchdown victory for the Cardinal, which would have easily covered the 8-point spread. On the way to routing its opponent, Stanford was to shred the home team’s secondary, while also stifling Kiffin’s offense, which would justify the enormity of the perceived gap between the two programs.
These premonitions failed to materialize, as USC fought toe-to-toe with its
superior equal. The Cardinal may have extended its nation leading win-streak to 16 games, but the 25-points or more margin of victory streak would end at 10.
For Stanford, it’s a consecutive game streak that began last October with a 2-point victory over USC. And from the end of that game, and leading up to Saturday’s beginning, the Cardinal grew in power rankings, while the Trojans began to shrink. By media perception, it was USC that entered with a soft 6-1 record, while Stanford entered at a respectable 7-0. Sagarin ratings showed the Cardinal to have a strength of schedule unworthy of praise, but somehow that did not factor into blowout predictions by analysts, who also chose to ignore last year’s meeting between the two teams. Instead, they continued to paint Stanford as the nation’s elite power, while sketching USC as a condemned fixture waiting for the wrecking ball to swing.
During the Stanford 16-game win streak:
- Only twice has an opponent managed to score 30 or more points. Both were accomplished by USC, scoring 35 in the 2010 loss, and 48 last Saturday (34 at the end of regulation).
- Only twice had Stanford trailed late in a ballgame. The Cardinal trailed USC 35-34 with 1:08 to play in Palo Alto, before driving for a game-winning field goal. The Cardinal trailed the Trojans 34-27 with 3:08 to play in the Coliseum, before Luck led them to a tie.
- Only 3 games have been decided by single-digits. It was a 2-point victory over USC in 2010, followed by the 8-point triple overtime victory over the same Trojans last weekend. Arizona State is the third, losing 17-13 to the Cardinal last November.
While USC hovered around its totals for the season, it was Stanford that saw a severe spike in several categories, including points allowed, rushing yards allowed, and sacks allowed, which is more indicative of season opponents prior to Saturday’s game. Those are the same season opponents that were invisible or irrelevant when projections were made, while judgmental eyes focused on the statistical numbers and schedule played by the weakened men of Troy.
In the end, and regardless of outcome, this was a necessary test that benefits both programs. Stanford needed the confidence that comes with surviving a challenge for four quarters, as it continues its BCS run. And even in defeat, USC is provided a boost in spirit, after spending several weeks reading press clippings of its decline, ineptness, and lack of quality.
The Cardinal is what the media said it would be, which is undefeated and still in the championship hunt after nine weeks. But the Trojans are far from their designation, not floundering through a season and unable to compete with formidable foes, as expressed by network know-it-alls on weekly sports segments.
This much is reflected in the latest AP poll, where USC fell just a single spot to No. 21 after the loss, with Stanford maintaining it’s position at No. 4. The national perception was altered through defeat, after being established as soft through weeks of victory.