Can USC climb back into national title contention?

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
11:22
AM PT
With the release of the first edition of the BCS standings, we ask what's on the minds of the most diehard USC fans: Can the Trojans climb back into the national championship picture?

The answer is, it's possible . . . if they win out.

If the Trojans win their remaining seven games, they could still be one of the top two teams in the BCS standings come December and in Miami come January. They sit at No. 10 right now, without yet having played a team the computers or pollsters consider elite, and coming down the stretch the Trojans could play three games against teams in the current BCS top 10.

They have upcoming regular-season matchups with Oregon and Notre Dame and could potentially square off in a Pac-12 championship game with either Oregon a second time or Oregon State (if the Beavers beat the Ducks in the Civil War). If they won each of those games they would jump at least those three teams -- No. 3 Oregon, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oregon State.

They wouldn't be a lock for the No. 2 spot, of course (Oregon, Notre Dame and OSU would need to continue their winning ways and Kansas State would need to lose), but four of the remaining teams in the current top 10 -- Alabama, Florida, LSU and South Carolina -- play in the same conference (SEC), so further attrition seems likely. And a 12-1 USC team that began the year as the preseason AP No. 1, lost its only game in mid-September, and finished strong against quality opponents would seem to have a resume strong enough to compete with any other one-loss teams, even ones from the SEC.

So it's possible. If they win out.

But is it a lock? No.

First, they need help. Kansas State has yet to lose a game and has already beaten its toughest opponent -- No. 9-ranked Oklahoma. Jumping them would be unlikely were they to remain undefeated.

Second, they need to get better. The Trojans have demonstrated significant deficiencies through the first six games of the season -- including a 57th-ranked offense and the highest penalty average among all FBS teams – that would make beating a team like Oregon twice a seriously tall order.

In order to win out, in order to have any hope of beating teams like Oregon, Notre Dame and Oregon State, USC will have to show real improvement in both areas and continue to perform at a very high level on defense.

It’s possible they can do that. And the end of the season gets very intriguing if they pull it off. But don’t hold your breath. Not yet. Let them beat Oregon (at least once) first.


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