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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Why Week 12 matters in the Pac-12

By Ted Miller

After consecutive weekends with a Game of the Century, college football offers up this. This week's schedule is, well, kinda lame.

Top-ranked LSU plays an FCS team, Ole Miss. Kidding, Ole Miss. But barely.

No. 2 Oklahoma State plays Iowa State on Friday. Neh.

No. 3 Alabama plays Georgia Southern, an FCS team for real.

Nebraska-Michigan looks good. No. 5 Oklahoma versus Baylor might be interesting.

But it's been noted -- even whispered in the hallowed halls of the Home Office in beautiful Bristol, Conn. -- that there ain't much going on this weekend.

Matt Barkley
Quarterback Matt Barkley will lead USC into Autzen Stadium on Saturday.
Au contraire, college football nation! Turn your attention West for a second weekend in a row. Oregon, college football's new hot flavor, is playing host to USC, college football's old hot flavor, one that, by the way, is playing pretty darn well.

Week 12 will matter in Autzen Stadium.

You'll note that USC has no ranking beside it. That's an illusion. The Trojans aren't eligible for the BCS standings, and most news organizations use the BCS standings to avoid confusion this time of the year. The Trojans are ranked 18th in the AP poll. But that's also an illusion.

There isn't a single person in the country -- at least one with a brain -- who believes 17 teams could beat 8-2 USC. None. Zero. No one would pick Michigan State to beat USC. No one would pick South Carolina to beat USC. No one would pick Kansas State to beat USC. No one.

Go here, USC fans, to search out the disingenuous. Do as you wish with the weapon known as email!

USC is still getting hit by irrational USC hate. Everyone knows the Trojans should rank around 10-15. Voters go: "USC is good and I hate that. I'd rank them 12th, but they fall six spots because of my hate for them. Or should I do seven? No, then that Pac-12 blog guy might get everyone emailing me again."

The point here is we should all be excited about the showdown between No. 4 Oregon and USC, which is ranked 12th by a really smart person.

(No, not me, silly, ESPN's Dari Nowkhah. Ryen Russillo, who has been touted as the smartest person in sports radio history, ranks the Trojans 10th.)

If Oregon can stomp on a really, really good USC team, it might turn the Crimson Tide of sentiment about who is the nation's best one-loss team.

And if USC notches the upset, the nationwide consternation would be absolutely beautiful.

Think about it. Folks would have to say this: "Lane Kiffin is a good football coach." It's possible the heads of Tennessee fans everywhere would spontaneously explode (stop grinning, Alabama fans).

And this: "USC is a team of high character that plays hard despite a second consecutive year with its postseason being unfairly stripped away by the draconian NCAA."

Hey, the Trojans might surge up to 16th in the AP poll with a win!

This game offers so much: A leading Heisman Trophy candidate in Oregon running back LaMichael James. A likely NFL first-round draft choice in USC quarterback Matt Barkley. National title angles with the Ducks.

At worst, an Oregon victory would clinch its berth in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.

And, if USC wins, it could wrap up the "real" South Division title with a win the following weekend at home against rival UCLA.

No, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott isn't rooting for the Trojans, either.

So, college football nation, once again this weekend turn your attention West. Have an espresso to keep yourself awake and alert to take in the grandeur of Autzen Stadium.

Heck, we're pretty much the only game in town.