The danger for USC? It's likely to be punished by the BCS pollsters and computers—marked down for the fluffiness of its conference schedule. It's hard to imagine the Trojans, sitting on that loss to Oregon State, sliding into the title game ahead of a one-loss team from the SEC (be it Alabama, Florida, Georgia or LSU) or the Big 12 (whether it's Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas Tech). Remember: Should the Nittany Lions win out, they're likely to earn a trip to Miami.
SO ONE would think, at any rate. In 43 years under Paterno, the program has earned renown for, among other things, its linebackers, its classic uniforms and its underappreciated undefeated seasons. Four times Paterno has won all his games only to see another team crowned No. 1.
Conceivably, it could happen again this year. These days JoePa has more pressing matters on his mind. Like making Pryor look like the freshman he is. ("He's smooth as silk," says Paterno. "We'll have our hands full with him.") And making sure his assistants get his instructions to the team at halftime. It's too difficult for him to make the trip to and from the press box at intermission, so he stays upstairs.
When the subject of BCS rankings arose, Paterno responded as if he'd been asked to comment on Lil Wayne's latest album. "Honest to God, I don't even want to talk about that," he said, sounding pained. "We've got a lot of games ahead of us. A lot of teams have a lot of games ahead of them."
True, that. But it's also true that a small number of those games will have a disproportionately large impact on who is still playing on Jan. 8. One of them kicks off in the Horseshoe this Saturday night. Let the shakeout begin.