Trojans Show Resilience
by Allen Eastman - 11/27/2006
When USC lost to Oregon State a month ago, Pete Carroll told his Trojans that they had been there before.
They could come back from a loss.
As they have.
Don't make too much of this loss, Carroll told them. It's not forever.
The same could be said of USC's leapfrogging Michigan into the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings on Sunday.
USC has been there before as well, and there's still a week and a rivalry game left.
Saturday's 44-24 win over Notre Dame did everything expected of it, elevating USC (10-1, 7-1 Pac-10) to No. 2 across the board, in the two human polls the BCS factors in and the one it doesn't as well as in the computer average.
"That's good," Carroll said in his Sunday conference call. "I guess when they measured it all out, obviously our strength of schedule helps us. And it's helped in more ways than one. It helped prepare us for the season."
USC, with a BCS average of 0.9460 to Michigan's 0.9216, has made the leap across one of the biggest chasms in all of sports, and done so at almost exactly the right time.
No. 2 in the BCS plays in the national championship game. No. 3, where USC was last week, does not.
"The ones doing the evaluating must have been watching the magnitude of the games we were playing lately -- Oregon, California and Notre Dame," Carroll said. "We made them all look the same. There's been a style to the wins. Our defense is playing well, and the offense is executing well. There's been a real consistency to our play since the Stanford game."
Here's a little history:
USC was No. 2 in 2003 with a week to go, beat Oregon State 52-28 in the final game and got edged out of the big game. Thanks to a rankings formula no longer in effect, LSU and Oklahoma squeaked past the Trojans after the conference championship games.
However, a Rose Bowl match-up with Michigan allowed the top-ranked Trojans to win The Associated Press' national title.
That won't happen this year. USC won't be ranked No. 1, and No. 3 Michigan almost certainly can't regain the No. 2 spot unless USC loses.
"But the ranking doesn't have an impact on us in this week or in this game," Carroll said of the cross-town match-up Saturday (1:30 p.m., Chs. 7, 42) against UCLA (6-5, 4-4) at the Rose Bowl.
"It's kind of fun for us going into the last game of the year knowing we have a chance to go into the championship game. I'm not concerned about a letdown."
But something else concerns Carroll.
"I'm concerned because it's the last game of the year. We've seen teams be real difficult for us in those games. Just go back to the UCLA game there the last time, or to Oregon State. It doesn't matter who you play."
If the Trojans plan to get to Arizona for a shot at top-ranked Ohio State, they're going to have to earn it, Carroll said. The past three wins merely put USC in position to get to the title game. Only a win over UCLA is sure to get them there.
Not since 2001 has a team ranked second in the BCS going into the final week of the season lost. That year Tennessee lost to LSU, 31-20, in the SEC title game and was replaced for the BCS championship game by Nebraska, which went on to lose to Miami.
With the win over Notre Dame, the No. 10 team in the BCS, to go with wins over No. 9 Arkansas, No. 18 Cal, No. 20 Nebraska and a loss to No. 24 Oregon State, USC is the only ranked team to play five other BCS-ranked teams, and the only one to beat four.
Dwayne Jarrett's seven catches Saturday tied him with Johnny Morton for third on USC's career list with 201 receptions.
With his three catches, Steve Smith moved into fifth on USC's career list with 177.
Freshman tailback C. J. Gable led USC in rushing for the second straight game with his first 100-yard performance (107 on a career-high 20 carries).
With his 34-yarder Saturday, USC kicker Mario Danelo has made 13 of 14 field-goal attempts.
USC is the first team to hold Brady Quinn under 50 percent in passing (22 of 45) in the two years that Charlie Weis has been coach at Notre Dame.