Best case-worst case: USC

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
7:00
PM ET
This is the final entry in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-12 teams.

Understand: These are not predictions. They are extreme scenarios and pieces of fiction. You can read last year's versions here.

We're going in reverse order of my post-spring power rankings (which might not be identical to my preseason power rankings).

You can see previous best case-worst case posts here.

Up next: USC

Best case

A duck floats on dark waters at night. It rises and a hand strips it off, revealing a shock of blond hair. It was a disguise! A man emerges from the water and hurries through a secret passage into some sort of sinister facility. He plants explosive charges and dashes away.

Outside the facility, he then tears away his wet suit to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo. He calmly walks down the street and then into a crowded, exotic night club. There is a massive explosion and the patrons scream and panic and run into the street. But our man doesn't flinch. He walks to the bar.

Man at bar: Congratulations Mr. Barkley. Mr. Romales and his friend will be out of business.

Matt Barkley: He won't be using heroin-flavored banana to finance revolutions.

Man at bar: Don't go back to your hotel, señor. They'll be watching you. There is a plane to Miami in an hour.

Barkley: I'll be on it. I have some unfinished business to attend to there.

Shirley Bassey then sings: "Crystal footbaalllllll!"

Barkley throws six touchdown passes combined in blowout wins over Hawaii and Syracuse.

"I don't always throw touchdown passes," Barkley says. "But when I do, I prefer Robert Woods and Marqise Lee."

USC heads to Stanford, which has beaten the Trojans three consecutive times.

The game is tied 17-17 at halftime, but Barkley throws a pair of four-quarter touchdown passes and Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd combine for 130 of their 200 yards after the break as the Trojans pull away 38-27.

Redd: What's Matt Barkley like? Well, he's never had an awkward moment.

McNeal: Actually, Silas, he did. Once. Just to see what it was like.

Redd: His charm is so contagious, vaccines have been created for it.

McNeal: He taught Traveler to nay in Russian.

Redd: You know he's entered the room because you'll hear "Barcelona Nights" playing. No idea where it comes from.

The Trojans whip California 42-10 and slip Utah 30-27. Barkley throws three touchdown passes in a 45-24 win over Washington.

Kevin Gemmell: Barkley is completing 70 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns and just one interception. Both McNeal and Redd are on track for 1,000 yards rushing, as Woods and Lee are receiving. And the defense is better than expected.

Ted Miller: I hear Barkley's personality is so magnetic, he's unable to carry credit cards.

Gemmell: Sharks have a week dedicated to him.

Miller: He once ran a marathon backwards, just to see what second place looked like.

Gemmell: Two more Dos Equis, por favor.

The top-ranked Trojans post blowout wins over Colorado and Arizona. Up next: No. 4 Oregon.

A Spanish language reporter shows up Barkley's weekly news conference.

Reporter: ¿Qué es importante para usted?

Barkley: Mi familia y mis amigos, mi fe y mi país. Mis compañeros de equipo y entrenadores. Ayudar a los demás. La integridad y la honestidad. Una vida centrada en la belleza verdad y las buenas obras. Puestas de sol.

Everyone stands and claps. Even non-Spanish speakers.

"Look, I know, Barkley is the most ... best quarterback in the country," Oregon coach Chip Kelly says. "Look, he patted me on my back after last year's game and I put that on my resume. May have gotten me that offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But we're trying to win a championship here."

Lane Kiffin gathers his team inside the bowels of the Coliseum.

"Just out there the Ducks huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts with icy fingers, knowing full well what merciless horrors they suffered against us last year in their stadium," he says. "Yet they stare now across the field at 71 Trojans! The Ducks outnumber us by a paltry 14 scholarship players, good odds for any Trojan. This day we rescue a conference from closed practices, ridiculous uniforms and obnoxious fans and deliver a future brighter than anything we can imagine!"

Barkley throws four touchdown passes in a 42-38 victory.

USC bombs Arizona State and beats UCLA and Notre Dame by a combined count of 100-3.

In the Pac-12 championship game rematch with Oregon, USC dominates, winning 48-17.

Barkley becomes the first unanimous winner of the Heisman Trophy. He delivers his acceptance speech in English, French and German. The text will later win the Pulitzer Prize for General Awesomeness.

Gemmell: USC is certainly in the discussion of greatest team in college football history if they defeat unbeaten SEC champion Alabama, which buried LSU 5-0 on Nov. 3. Of course, we've been here before. In 2005, the same was said before the Trojans fell to Texas, preventing them from winning three consecutive national titles.

Miller: If Barkley were to punch me in the face, I'd have to fight off the urge to thank him.

Gemmell: He once brought a knife to a gunfight, just to even the odds.

Before a national title game news conference, Kiffin runs into a rowdy mob of Alabama fans, they surround him, hurling insults and invective. Barkley appears.

Headline in the Miami Herald: "Barkely parts the Red Sea."

The Trojans whip Alabama 48-10, finish 14-0.

"We are witnessing the greatest team in college football history," says the TV announcer.

"Yep. And somehow it speaks to the utter buffoonery of the NCAA that USC is celebrating under a cascade of confetti," the colorman says. "Karma is a harsh mistress. Surely even UCLA fans can enjoy that goodness and fairness have triumphed over the injustice that was handed down by the NCAA."

"And that Matt Barkley!" the announcer replies. "I hear when he's in Rome, they do as he does."

Worst case

Barkley throws six touchdown passes combined in blowout wins over Hawaii and Syracuse.

But he sprains his ankle late in the victory over Syracuse, as does defensive tackle George Uko.

Stanford rushes for 256 yards in a 30-27 win over the Trojans, the Cardinal's fourth consecutive win over USC.

Barkley returns to action, and leads USC on a five-game winning streak. The 7-1 Trojans, ranked ninth, then face unbeaten and third-ranked Oregon.

Kevin Gemmell: It's the first matchup of what could be a two game series, as both teams are expected to reach the Pac-12 championship game.

Ted Miller: You do realize that this is the "worst case" scenario, right?

Gemmell: Dude, it's your freaking script.

Miller: That's right. And at this point I'd like to note that UCLA has just one conference loss. That will be important after two more, short paragraphs.

Oregon rolls over the Trojans 45-24, with Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota outplaying Barkley, tossing three touchdown passes and running for another.

The Trojans bounce back with a blowout win over Arizona State.

Gemmell: USC is 8-2 overall with two conferences losses and archrival UCLA is 9-1 with one conference loss. If the Bruins beat the Trojans and Stanford in the season finale, they -- not USC -- go to the Pac-12 championship game. If the Trojans win, they will go to the championship game by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

UCLA sacks Barkley four times, and Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley throws three touchdown passes in a 35-24 UCLA victory.

"Of course, it's special to beat USC," Bruins coach Jim Mora says. "But our program is no longer focused on our rival. It is focused only on winning championships. And that's what we plan to do."

The dispirited Trojans get drubbed at home 45-10 by Notre Dame.

UCLA, meanwhile, slips Stanford and upsets Oregon to win the Pac-12 title.

USC falls to Texas in the Holiday Bowl and finishes 8-5. The Bruins beat Michigan 28-24 in the Rose Bowl.

A handful of defecting USC commitments gives UCLA the nation's No. 1 recruiting class.

Headline in LA Times, "17 USC players caught in chocolate chip cookie scandal, according to NCAA."

The members of the NCAA's infractions committee include Loki, Bain, the Joker, Hannibal Lecter, the late Bernie Madoff, Cruella de Vil, Darth Vader, Nurse Ratched, Gordon Gekko and Satan.

"Of course, we'll be fair to USC," committee chair Satan says. "Fair, you might not know this, is my middle name."

Ted Miller | email

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