With USC visiting Oregon and Alabama traveling to LSU next Saturday, college football fans have had November 3 marked on their calendars since way back in August. But while three of those four teams have lived up to the hype and still hold real title aspirations (with Alabama still yet to play on Saturday), one of them can only play spoiler at this point.
That team is USC and they are no longer a championship contender. Not after they got upset 39-36 in one of the wildest college football games of the season.
For Rich Rodriguez, it was the defining victory of his short tenure at Arizona. After narrow losses to Oregon State and Stanford in recent weeks, the Wildcats used a big 26-point second half and an incredible performance by quarterback Matt Scott to seal Arizona’s most impressive win in years.
As a matter of fact, in a game which had any number of fascinating story lines (many of which we’ll get to momentarily), Scott’s performance is the one that will likely get lost in the shuffle. Hopefully that won’t be the case though, since USC’s defense had no answer for the Arizona quarterback all day, on an afternoon where he finished with 369 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. Hello! Even after Scott had to leave the game with an injury, it wasn’t enough for USC to overcome the Wildcats, as Arizona held on for victory.
And “held on” is the right word, as even after trailing for most of the game, Arizona still had to survive an offensive onslaught from USC, the likes of which the school and the Pac-12 as a whole has never seen.
That’s because while Scott was the hero of the game, Trojan wide receiver Marquise Lee had a record-book-shattering game himself, with a USC and Pac-12 record 345 yards receiving and two touchdowns. In the same token, Matt Barkley had his best game of the season with 493 yards passing, shattering his previous best of 393 yards against Hawaii in USC’s opener.
And it still wasn’t enough for the Trojans to get a win. In the process, USC’s season unofficially ended Saturday as well.
For a team which came into the season with so much hype, USC just has never seemed to kick things in gear during this 2012 season. It started early with a sloppy win against Syracuse, before a stunning loss to Stanford back in September. Even afterward the Trojans haven’t really seemed to play up to their full potential, with ugly wins over Cal and Washington in recent weeks. For those who’ve watched this team week in and week out, a loss like this wasn’t hard to see coming.
And with this second loss, the date with Oregon next week that many believed to be a BCS title game semifinal matchup, is now nothing more than an opportunity for USC to play spoiler. As a matter of fact, that’s all USC can be at this point; a spoiler, as they’ll host both Oregon and Notre Dame in the final month of the season, with each team undefeated and in the mix for a championship. USC could also end Oregon’s title chances in the Pac-12 Championship Game, although at this point there’s no guarantee they’ll get there.
For USC Saturday was a lost afternoon, in a season that has become lost too.
All of a sudden, their showdown with Oregon next Saturday doesn’t have nearly as much meaning.
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