Thank you, USC Trojans, for not showing up to play Saturday night in South Bend. You did the greater metropolis a big favor. You made less complicated a very busy night of channel flipping. You allowed millions of Trojan fans, who are also Dodger fans, to switch over early to scrutinize which opponent the Dodgers are going to be playing next Tuesday in the World Series.
You freed up “record” space on TV devices and made moot having to “add extension” in case of an exciting single, double or triple overtime.
How many missed endings have YOU missed by not hitting the extension add on your recording device?
The only “torn” segment of civilized society may have been for those UCLA fans, who are also Dodger fans, who may have had to choose American League baseball, with that insidious designated hitter, over watching USC get its rears kicked on national television.
That’s always going to be a tough call.
USC's “patty-cake” act in South Bend, however, freed most Angelenos to completely set aside college football, for the foreseeable future, to focus on the foreseeable present.
Game 7 of the ALCS, between the Yankees and Astros, was way more compelling than Game 8 of USC’s season, which took a dreadful turn on the turnpike.
USC’s defense was so helpless and horrendous it was rumored former coordinator Justin Wilcox phoned just to say “wow.”
Yes, Notre Dame had a week to prepare and yes, USC entered the game with a lot of injuries. And yes, Sam Darnold’s second season at quarterback is way different than his first.
But 28-0 at halftime?
Don’t ask me the final score because I’m going to have to trust my Sunday morning paper on that one. It says 49-14. In 2005 the Trojans walked out of South Bend with the famous "Bush Push." This was "The Love Tap."
USC’s defeat did sort out some things. It put to end, basically, the notion that the Trojans can make this year’s playoff after a (whatever-the-score-was) loss at Notre Dame.
The Trojans rallied from 1-3 last year to make the Rose Bowl, but that was a different dynamic. This loss was worse than last year's 52-6 opening loss to Alabama: Max Browne started that game. Saturday's game will wake up the echoes at Notre Dame, which has proved itself a legitimate national title threat, and probably will start a chorus in Los Angeles about the long-term coaching viability of Clay Helton.
Save that for another day. USC’s next two games are at Arizona State and home against Arizona, suddenly not the “Ws” you marked down even a month ago.
Arizona State, a week after beating Washington, went to Utah on Saturday and walked-away a 30-10 winner. USC defeated Utah last week by one point. And now Arizona is 5-2 after a late night, overtime, win over California.
The Pac 12’s playoff light is getting dimmer. One-loss Washington, which had a bye week, now remains the last, best chance. Thank goodness it upgraded its non-conference schedule with Rutgers, right?
Or maybe you missed it: Rutgers has now won two straight Big Ten games for the first time since joining the league in 2014.
The U of Dub can also lean on Fresno State, right? Because that FSU has a better W-L (5-2) record than the FSU in Tallahassee (2-4).
Also, Washington’s seven-point loss at Arizona State last week won’t look so bad if the Sun Devils keep playing like they did Saturday at Salt Lake City.
It’s amazing what happens when you allow a season to play out.
For now, USC fans, sit back and relax. And enjoy the World Series.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Miami and FSU Headed in Different Directions
Miami and Florida State are located at opposites ends of the same state and also now, suddenly, on opposite ends of Goalpost Galaxy.
Show of hands of people who saw this coming?
One of these teams is making hay; the other is going haywire.
Miami improved to 6-0 on the same Saturday that Florida State fell to 2-4.
It's almost as simple as this: Miami is winning the close games and Florida State is losing them.
Miami has enjoyed all its home cooking, while the Seminoles are 0-3 at home for the first time since 1974.
This just proves you never know how any season is going to unfold.
Florida State started preseason No. 3, a team so highly regarded it was said it could afford an opening loss to Alabama and still remain a top national title contender. What was missing was this caveat: not if you lose three (or more) games on top of that.
What FSU could not afford was to lose quarterback Deondre Francois to a season-end surgery.
While Miami is getting most of the breaks, Florida State is a broken down orange-state crate.
These fine football factories, which have combined for eight national titles since the early 1980s, are fighting for different things now.
Miami, only marginally regarded entering this season, is now a serious national title contender.
The Canes escaped another close brush this weekend, holding off Syracuse, 27-19, a week after the ‘Cuse upset No. 2 Clemson.
Miami, folks, is living large. It had one game canceled by a hurricane, Arkansas State. That game, and all the bumps and bruises that go with it, won’t have to be contested.
Miami then won a thriller at Florida State, 24-20. That was the game in which coach Mark Richt announced his intentions in the final minutes, down by three, when he kissed off a final field attempt to tie the game. Richt ordered up the dagger and won it in regulation on a scoring pass.
Miami then survived a 25-24 game against Georgia Tech, in the mud, and the blood and the beer.
Then came Saturday, and another game that came down to the final minutes.
“When the game is on the line, we do pretty good,” Richt told ESPN’s sideline reporter Allison Williams after Saturday’s win.
Miami is starting to remind me of “one-of-those-teams” in the midst of a special season. You forget how much luck and karma is involved in winning a national title. History is replete with banners hoisted on the backs of hair-raisers.
In 2002, Ohio State went 14-0, winning seven of those by seven points or less.
In 2010, led by Cam Newton at quarterback, Auburn escaped several defeats on its way to the title.
In 2012, Notre Dame made it to the final game dancing on the edge of a razor.
Even mighty Alabama, along its powerhouse way, has needed a few breaks. Remember, in 2009, those two blocked kicks by Terrence Cody against Tennessee? Almost every title team has one or two scary stories to tell.
How many more escapes can Miami make?
The Hurricanes have two tricky games left—Virginia Tech and Notre Dame—but both are at home.
Meanwhile, up north, FSU twists in a Tallahassee wind. A 31-28 loss to Louisville had some Seminole fans turning on the home team.
Coach Jimbo Fisher, after the game, got into a verbal altercation with a fan who suggested the Seminoles needed some better coaches.
“Walk your ass down here and say it,” Fisher reportedly said.
How quickly things change.
Miami has won a few games it could have lost. And FSU has lost a few it could have won.
“We’ve been one inch away, one play away,” Fisher said.
How to rectify this situation?
“Find those inches,” Fisher said.
--Speaking of "whew," the Oklahomas remain in the playoff hunt by the edge of their panhandles. Oklahoma State won at Texas, 13-10, in overtime, thanks to a horrible game-clinching interception thrown by Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger. What's that saying about losing a game for every true freshman you start? Oklahoma then held on to win at Kansas State, 42-35, on a last-minute touchdown.
--Congratulations to Rutgers, which defeated Purdue on Saturday to record its first back-to-back Big Ten wins since joining the conference in 2014. And to Army, which defeated Temple, 31-28, in OT, to up its record to 6-2. After the game, the Cadets accepted a bid to the Armed Forces Bowl. And to Boston College, which has come back from Davy Jones' Locker to post consecutive wins over Louisville and Virginia. And to Arizona State, which followed last week's 13-7 home win over Washington with an impressive, 30-10 win at Utah. What's gotten into these teams?
--Hot seat watch: UCLA Coach Jim Mora scored a huge, must win over quarterback-depleted Oregon at the Rose Bowl. UCLA improved to 4-3 with the 31-14 win but the hard work is not over. Up next for the Bruins: at Washington, at Utah, Arizona State, at USC and California.[/membership]