Kicker Andre Heidari's game-winning field goal ended USC's losing streak to Stanford at four games.
While 93,607 fans packed Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night, the Trojans’ biggest fans were in Oregon.
A week after the Ducks' Pac-12 title hopes were seemingly dashed, Heidari’s kick vaulted them right back into the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 North and back on course for the Rose Bowl. Oregon needs to pull off what Washington State did Saturday -- win at Arizona -- then beat Oregon State at home to host its second conference title game in three seasons.
The Ducks played a game Saturday, too, but their eventual rout of Utah served merely as an appetizer for the day’s marquee game. Especially in Eugene.
While the Ducks’ payoff on Saturday is healthy bounty, it’s important not to understate what it meant at USC, where the Trojans ended their longest losing streak to Stanford in the series’ 88-year history (four games), kept their own conference title hopes alive and further cemented interim coach Ed Orgeron as a suitable long-term option.
The campus’ love affair with Orgeron is in full bloom. When you deliver opportunities to rush the field, that tends to be the case.
Stanford would know, too. A year ago it was Stanford students rushing the field after the Cardinal’s win against then-No. 2 USC. Last week, they were back on the grass at Stanford Stadium following the now-less-relevant victory against Oregon.
That jubilation was short-lived.
With the loss to USC, Stanford’s run of three straight trips to BCS bowls is in serious jeopardy. A loss to Oregon and a win against USC would have left the Cardinal on track for the Rose Bowl, but flipping those results could leave them on the outside looking in now that the winner of the Pac-12 title game will head to Pasadena. The Big Game figures to be a cakewalk next week against Cal, but the regular-season finale against Notre Dame could still carry some weight as Stanford looks for a BCS at-large berth.
As Oregon cheered for USC this week, the Trojans will do the same next week for rival UCLA. The Bruins, whose only losses this year came on the road to Oregon and Stanford, are set to host Arizona State in a game that could create a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 South with a UCLA win. If that were to happen, USC would be in position to steal the division on the regular season’s final day, needing a win against UCLA and an Arizona win over Arizona State.
A dream scenario for USC, sure, but the fact that it still exists nearly two months after Lane Kiffin’s dismissal speaks volumes.
For Arizona State, the next two weeks are more are more simple. Win at UCLA, go the Pac-12 championship. If the Sun Devils lose, they still can take the division with a victory over Arizona the following week, coupled with a USC win against UCLA.
UCLA needs nothing shy of wins against Arizona State and USC to take the division.
If Oregon and USC were the day’s big winners, then Washington State and Colorado are next in line.
The Cougars’ 24-17 win at Arizona keeps their once-faint hopes for bowl berth alive. Since beating Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl, WSU students haven’t had good reason to stay in Pullman for the start of Thanksgiving break. This week, that’s not the case.
Utah plays at Martin Stadium next Saturday in a game pivotal for both teams’ bowl hopes. For Utah, a victories is essential. It needs wins against WSU and Colorado to go bowling. The Cougars have another opportunity the following week at Washington, but if they can lock up bowl eligibility against Utah, it’ll make for a much less stressful lead-up to the Apple Cup.
And let us not forget the Game of the Weak.
While at San Jose State last year, current Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre ended Sonny Dykes’ tenure at Louisiana Tech with a loss. On Saturday, he again topped Dykes and Cal, meaning the Bears' first season without Jeff Tedford will likely end the same way it did in 2001 -- the season before he was hired -- without a conference win.