Pac Tracks: Shrinking Violet makes playoff case for USC vs. Ohio State

One far-fetched question to ask before this year’s Pac 12 champion gets left out of the playoff and makes preparations for the Fiesta Bowl.


Is there any two-loss playoff argument USC could win?

Wow. Sorry. Too soon, or too late?

This is NOT me trying to upset Kirk Herbstreit’s intestinal workings but, with deference and due respect, why has a two-loss champion Ohio State been anointed?

Again, not trying to step out of my lane here--I’m just asking for a Passive 12 friend.

God knows there is no two-loss scenario for Washington or Washington State.

Please, though, let me expunge this from my system and then we’ll all roll over and retreat into a perpetual state of Pac 12, after-darkness.

Shred and dismiss this story, obviously, if a Washington defeat over Washington State in the Apple Cup allows three-loss Stanford to win the conference title on Dec. 1 in Santa Clara.

But what if USC wins out to finish 11-2? Are there really no scenarios in which the Trojans can sneak in? Nate Silver’s 538 blog gives USC a 25% chance, but that was dismissed by the ESPN jaw firm of Fowler & Herbstreit.

They’re probably right.

It is remarkable, though, how little push-back there ever is from Pac 12 push overs.

I stand by my statement the College Football Playoff has been infinitely fairer to the Pac 12 than the BCS. I proved it the first year by comparing the average committee ranking to the AP and USA Coaches poll.

The Pac 12 has also gotten two schools, Oregon and Washington, into the first three playoffs. We have so much to be grateful for yet, the conference still has an uncanny history of not being able to line up its satellite coordinates. Like the fast kid in school, it always gets its lunch stolen.

The Pac 12 had, at face, a decent overall season. It had no major embarrassments in non-conference. San Diego State over Stanford? Ok. Memphis over UCLA, it turns out, wasn’t an upset. Memphis is 9-1 and ranked No. 17 in this week’s AP poll.

Washington State did not even lose this year to Eastern Washington or Portland State. Larry’s League is a respectable 27-8 in non-league play with Notre Dame at Stanford left in the bag. That record includes a 2-0 mark against the SEC West, the top ranked division in this week’s Sagarin Ratings.

The Pac finished with a 6-2 record against the other Power 5 leagues.

Yet, even in a year when it appears a two-loss champion could get it, the Pac is going to get left out. At least that’s what they’re saying on TV.

Somehow, the SEC has three teams in the top 10, all controlling their own playoff fate in a year when the SEC is extremely mediocre beyond Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.

The SEC West is top-heavy potent, if not piss-poor at the bottom, while the SEC is ranked the No. 9 division in Sagarin.

How does the SEC do it!!

This has all the makings of too-bad condolences for the Pac and I can’t honesty find a viable, arguable rat-maze route to the Top Four except one: USC vs. Ohio State.

Again, just asking, why can’t USC compete in that argument?

USC currently owns the No. 16 strength of schedule in Sagarin, compared to No. 49 for Ohio State.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

The Buckeyes’ two losses are by 46 total points, while the Trojans have lost two games by 38 points.

Ohio State lost to a good team, Oklahoma, at home, and mediocre Iowa on the road.

USC lost to two good teams, Washington State and Notre Dame, both on the road.

The Trojans got hammered at Notre Dame, 49-19, but the Buckeyes got hammered at Iowa, 55-24.

The teams that defeated USC are currently ranked No. 9 and No. 14 in the AP. The teams that defeated Ohio State are No. 3 and unranked. In fact, Iowa (6-5) just lost at home to Purdue.

We don’t mean to be rude and always know our place in the college football world order, but why is Ohio State a foregone to the playoff if it wins the Big Ten, but USC is not if it wins the Pac 12?

Ohio State, for sure, has the advantage of potentially playing undefeated Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

USC, though, may have a chance to avenge its loss to Washington State.

How would that wash?

Please pardon this vulgar intrusion on your valuable, playoff time. We know Urban Meyer is a better coach than Clay Helton and that the Pac 12 is inferior to any league with Jim Delany as its commissioner.

Thank Utes Very Much

Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham picked the wrong year to be considered a viable candidate for the open UCLA job.

Whittingham is, no doubt, one of the league’s top coaches and highly respected. He’s the only Pac 12 coach with a win over Nick Saban’s Alabama.

The Utes, though, are 5-6 after Saturday night’s 33-30 loss at Washington.

It was worse than that. Washington appeared ready to run out the clock and play for overtime when the Huskies ran the ball, for two yards, deep in their own territory. Washington had no time outs left but Utah did—and Whittingham used one of them with 23 seconds left.


Washington regrouped and decided to attack down field.

Two long passes later, Tristan Vizcaino kicked a 38-yard field goal, with no time left, to win the game.

Whittingham said he called time out because he thought Utah might get the ball back in regulation if Washington threw a couple of incomplete passes.

“So it was a longshot,” Whittingham admitted afterward, “but we’re just trying to win and it obviously didn’t work out.”

What's Love Got To Do With It?

It seems even-money now that star Bryce Love is going to be the latest Stanford star to finish second in Heisman Trophy balloting.


He would join John Elway, Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck (twice) and Christian McCaffrey.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield appears to have locked up the award despite boorish behavior against Kansas that has earned him a benching for the start of this week’s home game against West Virginia.

Love has one last chance to make a huge statement when Stanford hosts Notre Dame in a nationally-televised game on Saturday.

A lot of Heisman voters are looking for reasons not to vote for Mayfield but, as bad luck would have it, Love has been hobbled of late with a lingering ankle injury.

He gained 101 yards in Saturday's win over Cal despite sitting out most of the fourth quarter.

His status against Notre Dame is questionable.

The ankle injury has allowed San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny to overtake Love for the overall rushing lead this season, 1,824 yards to 1,723.

When it comes to chasing down Love, on the field, well you just can't catch him.

When it comes down to the Heisman, however, Stanford just can't seem to catch a break.[/membership]