Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Re-Pete of 2003? Be very afraid

If you’re a Trojan fan you have to be happy with the program’s current position, but you also have to be worried about the future. Sitting atop the national rankings with the majority of first place votes can make you feel comfortable, but if you view the path for the remainder of the season, you have to wonder how long they can cling to those votes, as well as considering how long before voters begin to lose interest.

If you look at the top 25 rankings, noticeable absences are Pac 10 programs other than USC. Not only are there no Pac teams ranked, but neither is Notre Dame, the Trojans’ only remaining out of conference opponent. When you stare upon the paved path to season’s end, if there are no changes in coming weeks, USC will play no more ranked opponents this year.

If 3 or more BCS teams finish the season undefeated, USC could possibly be in danger of being snubbed from the BCS championship game. With no ranked opponents, they won’t receive a favorable score from the computers. Meanwhile, the Big 12 and SEC have all the ranked guppies aligned in a row, and would be the clear computer favorites in an undefeated season. We should remember this from the 2003 season, when the top ranked Trojans were left out of the BCS title game because of what they lacked in strength of schedule, and was forced to play in the Rose Bowl instead. As the Victor in the 2004 Rose Bowl, the AP awarded the Trojans a national championship trophy, giving us the first and only split of the BCS era.

Since then, changes have been made in the system, obviously recognizing the ’03 blunder. Now the human element makes up two thirds of the equation, but that also does not work automatically in USC’s favor. By December, most voters will have forgotten the Trojans’ body of work to begin the season. What they’ll remember is the number of unranked victims they stepped over down the stretch. To leave a lasting memory of each from beginning to end, and hold the interests of voters, USC will have to “leave no doubt”, leaving a path of destruction behind them.

The polls are never Pac 10 friendly, and the coaches’ poll usually shows preferential treatment to the SEC. Vanderbilt entered the coaches’ top 25 by going 4-0, but their opponents combine for a record of 7-9, and two were mid-majors. Alabama shot from the bottom of the polls and into the top 10, by only posting wins over Clemson, Western Kentucky, Tulane, and a very bad Arkansas team. And the worst ranking for the season, so far, had to be Florida State jumping into the top 25 last week, after only scoring 2 lopsided victories over FCS opponents. You should never reward a program for victories outside the FBS, and definitely not a program that scheduled FCS programs in consecutive weeks.

Pete Carroll claims to not pay attention to the polls, and doesn’t even have a vote. He always says all he can do is play the games and let others sort it out in the end. To avoid a repeat of 2003, it’s time to pay attention to those polls. It’s time to be unsportsmanlike and leave no doubt. It’s time to make a statement each weekend or face the probability of being omitted from the championship game. They say you should never look too far ahead, but if you're a Trojan, you look back at the history, and it's really hard not to see what has happened and fear a re-occurrence.

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