Arizona State Edition – 11/8/09

A lot to do this week so I will get right into it.   I have not spent enough time this year providing critical analysis of the BCS, which is to say, I have not spent enough time ridiculing the atrocity that college football uses to fraudulently name a fictitious champion.  So this week we need to talk about USC, the action around the country, and the BCS.  We start with the BCS.

This moronic system has been exposed as an utter disaster (in real life) time and time again.  The point I have made since its very inception is that it does not matter if the system accidentally works out sometimes, for the underlying point is that real sports have objective championship determinations, period.   The reality is that the BCS ruined the idea of a “national championship” a long time ago, and now it is ruining the very idea of non-conference schedules.  The SEC schools wisely figured out a long time ago that it is a very bad idea for them to play anyone of any substance whatsoever outside their own conference.  They all schedule patsy times, depriving their fans of the real competition college football is based on, and the BCS system rewards them for it.  Can you imagine a “world champion Los Angeles Lakers” who only played the teams in their conference, and then the last place team from other divisions?  If the champion was selected via a playoff format, teams would be incentivized to play the cream of the crop in their limited non-conference schedule, knowing that a loss would not keep them from achieving their goal of making the playoffs, and it would test themselves against the best teams out there.  And of course once a team makes the playoffs, anything can happen, and that is exactly what we love in sports.   The wildcard Broncos winning the Super Bowl.  The longshot Angels winning the World Series.  George Mason University making the final four.  Those events represent the greatest sporting events of our lives.   Two teams with a big name who play nobody in their voluntary schedule, and then are allowed to bypass other equally impressive teams on their way to a computer-generated game, does not a championship title make.  And it never will.  And if it was such a good system, why are other sports at both the college and professional level not earnestly seeking to implement it?

I have no respect for anyone at all who even attempts to defend this system.  It is abominable.  It is illogical.  It is a perfect symbol of this age.

Around the country:

Anyone who doubts the reality of the “USC hangover effect” is in denial, or not well-versed in comprehending empirical data.  The amount of teams who have upset USC one week and gone on to lose to an underdog the next week is remarkable.  And all I can say about Oregon’s loss this last week is that I am utterly shocked.

Stanford’s offense looked awesome.  Absolutely awesome.  I am very, very nervous about the game this weekend.  12:30 pm in the Coliseum.  It’s go-time, Trojans.

Navy is 2-1 against Notre Dame in the last 3 years.   Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate may not be around to seek revenge against the mighty men of Navy next year.  Would you come back?

I keep wanting to get on the Alabama train because I love Big Bear Bryant, I have friends who are Bama’ lovers, and I don’t really have much of a reason to hate them …  BUT then I see Nick Saban’s just idiotic temper tantrums on the sideline, and I just can’t do it.  Ay yi yi.  Calmness, Nick, calmness.  Still waters run deep.

Oklahoma State’s wide receiver gets suspended for the entire year because he denied hanging out with Deion Sanders for an afternoon (I would probably deny it too).  Florida’s linebacker gets suspended for one half of one game when he purposely and deliberately and nearly successfully tries to literally tear the eyes out of an opponent’s face.  An ode to the ethics of our age.

Notre Dame is 3-16 against teams with a winning record in the last three years.  3-16.  If they fire Charlie, please hire Dorrell.  (In all seriousness, if they were smart, they would have been working on Chris Peterson every single day for the last three years; at this point, I am trying to figure out why a Chris Peterson would ever leave a really GOOD program for a really BAD one; don’t forget, he wouldn’t even take a meeting with UCLA, and he lives in Boise, Idaho – ouch!!!).

I can’t figure out how my desire for Operation BCS chaos can still be realized other than one SEC team staying undefeated, Texas staying undefeated, and then TCU and Boise State and Cincinnati staying undefeated.  But what I think adds to Operation Chaos is for the SEC champ to have one loss (very possible), and for Texas to have one (not very possible), so that potentially 8 or 9 teams have one loss.  It can happen.  And it needs to.  Some day, people won’t put up with this any longer.  Unfortunately, most people need it to happen to them before they care.  Sad.

Those who are not sympathetic to Boise State’s and TCU’s and (in past years) Utah’s argument that they get shafted by this BCS system need to stop the line of reasoning NOW that says, “Oh come on, if Boise State played in the Pac-10, they would have two losses every year”.  The point should never be, and can never be, that we know or care what would happen, or should happen.  Sports, by definition, do not need such hypothetical drivel; sports contests settle it all on the field.  I happen to agree that it is highly unlikely that Boise State comes out of an eight-team playoff alive.  But I happen to think my opinion is irrelevant.  As the bad news bears’ coach and fans chanted decades ago, “let them play!”

That first half of the Trojan game was about as boring as anything I can remember.  Fortunately for me, I had already seen the second half of Ohio State-Penn State earlier in the day, so I was numb to the idea of boredom.  How Big-10 football fans endure that kind of torture every week is beyond me.  But USC did not look good in the first half on either side of the ball, though there were glimpses.  And frankly, three turnovers in the first half (meaning, we took the ball from them), should have given us more than seven points.

Damian Williams.  What can I say?  He is a special guy to watch catch the football, as well as run with the football.  If he is out, I think we are in big, big trouble.  Can anyone else tell how badly this offense already misses our future NFL starter of a Tight End?  McCoy and Williams – fight on!

So do I assume correctly that Stanford will come into the Coliseum as the favorite to win the game?  If not, what am I missing?  I understand it is in LA, but USC got pummeled by Oregon, and one week later Stanford beat Oregon (scoring over 50 points, I might add), while USC barely beat Arizona State (scoring just 14).   USC is the underdog.

I wonder if people understand that we have played 3 games this year at the Coliseum (two of them being San Jose State and Washington State), and six games on the road?  Three in a row at home to finish the year!!

As my friend Dave Lowman texted on Saturday – USC had to carry the weight of being kings of the Pac-10 for SEVEN YEARS.  Oregon only had to do it SEVEN DAYS.  It is lonely at the top, and it is not for everyone.

Could Stanford, or even more shocking, Arizona, ACTUALLY win the Pac-10 this year?  Ohio State must be chomping at the bit to come to Pasadena and NOT have to play USC.  I still don’t see how we can possibly get there, but you never know.  As a Pete Carroll disciple, I just don’t care about anything other than USC winning its next game.  I truly don’t.  I believe the Stanford game is going to be a huge challenge.  And after that game, I will think UCLA is going to be a huge challenge, etc.  If USC wins out, and that is a HUGE “if” right now, we probably will not be in the Rose Bowl (even if Oregon loses ANOTHER Pac-10 game, they still beat us in the tie-breaker), but IF we win out, I do believe we will be invited to the Fiesta Bowl.  But of course, I don’t know, because the system is so flipping insane, that no one knows anything.  So just win, and go where they tell you to go.  One thing I do know – even WITH the drubbing in Eugene, had we not lost to the Huskies, we would be looking at a much easier path to the granddaddy of them all … 

Barkley was not sharp tonight.  But on the bright side, we ran the ball well in the second half – very well.  Joe and Allen had some very big plays.  I have already talked positively about Damian, but now let me say this about Blake Ayles: that is too many drops in too short a period of time, and by “drops”, I mean, “plays on their way to the house”.  Therefore, he is on my bad list, until he cuts his air, AND starts catching the football.

Arizona State is a funny deal.  They are never THAT bad, but they are never THAT good.  They do not have a big ground game, but their defense is good, and Erickson is already an unproven coach.  I just don’t know what he does to ever make them top tier.  They seem to lack that missing ingredient to get over the hump.  Unlike my relationship with several Pac-10 programs (UCLA, Cal, and Oregon State), I don’t actually hate Arizona State – not at all.  I actually hope Erickson does get them going.  They looked competitive to me tonight, and if it weren’t for the turnovers we forced and recovered this evening, they would have won this game.

Speaking of turnovers, I love watching us win the takeaway battle.  I know Pete does too.  It’s all about the ball.  Always and forever.

So next week, it is all about Stanford.  Their quarterback looked like John Elway today.  And that running back is the best in the west.  The last time they came to the Coliseum it was some kind of a sick joke.  Last year, I went to their new stadium, and the pre-game routine was some kind of sick joke (though I am consistently told that America-bashing on college campuses is not something to be offended by).  So this is my goal for the sick joke this time around: that it be on them!  USC has work to do.

And with that, I bid thee farewell.  It is fun to be a Trojan right now.  The sheer glee Trojan haters in Westwood and NorCal and Texas and everywhere else take from our Oregon loss is such a huge testimony to what we have done as a program.  Teams that haven’t won a meaningful game in 15 years are gloating about Oregon having beaten USC.  It is awesome …  I am so proud of Pete Carroll for earning the respect USC has commanded.  I am actually enjoying seeing a few nominal Trojans meltdown right now, having no grown-up comprehension of what “adversity” actually means.  I hate losing.  But I am so proud to know that win or lose, there are only two words appropriate to say: FIGHT ON!!