Hey, we’re USC. Remember us?
Many in the college football world had stopped paying attention to the Trojans last fall. 2011 marked the second and last season in which the team was banned from participating in bowl games, stemming from the USC athletics scandal.
When Troy fell, Oregon took its place atop the conference. The high-scoring Ducks beat the Trojans by a combined 48 points in their previous two matchups. They also reached the BCS title game in 2010 and were threatening to do the same in 2011.
But bowl sanctions did nothing to prevent USC from playing the role of spoiler. QB Matt Barkley threw for 323 yards and four TDs, and when Alejandro Maldonado’s game-tying kick for Oregon went wide, the Trojans had their biggest win under second-year coach Lane Kiffin: A 38-35 road upset in Eugene.
It also served notice of their potential for 2012 — now they are bowl eligible and a national title contender once again.