They're still No. 1
Posted: Tuesday October 11, 2005 9:51AM; Updated: Tuesday October 11, 2005 12:26PM
Not too long ago, college and pro football writers were discussing what would happen if USC played a team like the San Francisco 49ers or Houston Texans. USC had opened the season by rolling up 63 and 70 points against Hawaii and Arkansas, respectively, and the consensus was that the Trojans would probably score some points against either of those hapless pro teams, but that no college team could truly compete against an NFL squad. Sure, USC might have a handful of pro prospects on both sides of the ball, but NFL rosters are filled with pros, not prospects.
Given how the Trojans have played the past three weeks, though, those conversations now seem as ridiculous as the one general managers probably had eight years ago when they wrestled with which quarterback to take: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf.
USC is still the No. 1 team in the nation and still riding an impressive winning streak (27 and counting) with an all-star backfield of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White. But anyone who has seen the Trojans the past three weeks cannot be too impressed with their performance. They were down 13-0 to Oregon in the second quarter, down 21-3 at the half and 28-24 with less than four minutes to go against Arizona State. And last week, against an Arizona team that was shut out the previous week by Cal, USC found itself in a 28-21 game with less than 13 minutes remaining.
The Trojans been playing like a college student taking a pass/fail class and living by the motto "C's get degrees." It's a phrase that one might even hear from coach Pete Carroll after another comeback win against a lesser opponent. "I don't know what more you can expect," Carroll said after the Arizona win. "I'm a football coach. I've been coaching for 37 years and you don't win every game everything-to-nothing. It just doesn't happen like that. I wish it did, but it just doesn't."
It's not that anyone expects the Trojans to become the first team in history to win all its games "everything-to-nothing," it's just that USC doesn't look like the unbeatable force that it had been hyped to be. While the Trojans have won all five of their games by double-digits, they are also leading the country in the cliched "it was closer than the final score would indicate" quotes.