By Jim Weber
That’s what has to be going through the minds of USC fans today. For the third time in the past five years, a season that was supposed to end with a national title has come to a screeching halt in September during the team’s Pac-12 opener.
In 2008, there was the 27-21 loss at Oregon State. In ’09, the Trojans fell 16-13 at Washington. And on Saturday night, USC lost to Stanford for the fourth straight time with the supposedly unstoppable Trojans offense looking very average all night. Heck, San Jose State put more points on the board (17) against Stanford than USC did in its 21-14 loss on the road.
There’s plenty of blame to go around for the offense. The O-line gave up four sacks and looked awful, the running game was putrid and Matt Barkley completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two interceptions. The whole unit looked undisciplined and unorganized, which is hard to believe considering that it’s a veteran group that is supposed to be the best offense in the nation.
Do the Trojans still have a shot at the national title? Not playing like that they don’t.
Even if USC regroups to win the rest of its games, I’d be very concerned as a Trojan fan that Florida State and the winner of the Alabama-LSU game could both go undefeated and shut a one-loss USC out of the national title game. All three of those teams look dominant, playing at a level well above anyone else on their schedules.
Obviously, there’s a lot of football left, but USC’s national title hopes are definitely in peril.
HERE COMES GENO: Remember how everyone basically handed the Heisman Trophy to Andrew Luck last season, only to watch Robert Griffin III snatch the bronze statue from the “Golden Boy” with a season for the ages? We might be watching history repeat itself with West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith looking like he could win the Heisman instead of Barkley, the overwhelming preseason favorite.
In two games this season, Smith has as many touchdowns (nine) as he does incompletions, in very RG3 fashion. Granted, the Mountaineers haven’t played anyone tough, but West Virginia’s “Air Raid” offense has been lights out since a 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl last January and shows no signs of slowing down.
FSU’S FOR REAL: After years of being ranked too highly in the preseason polls, only to disappoint, this year’s Seminoles look as though they are on a mission to play in Miami for the national title.
Yes, they have played only two FCS schools and Wake Forest so far. But the defense has allowed three points and 310 yards of offense total in those three games. Even without star cornerback Greg Reid, who was kicked off the team in August, the Seminoles defense looks very much like the dominant units from the 1990s. Florida State’s offense isn’t explosive, but if the ’Noles keep running the ball as they have, they will be taking their talents to South Beach in January.
WAKE UP THE ECHOES? If you can’t stand Notre Dame, you are going to need earmuffs this week. There’s going to be plenty of talk about whether the Irish are back among the nation’s elite after they beat No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing, 20-3. Never mind that the Irish barely beat lowly Purdue last week, the BCS bowl hype has already started.
Personally, I’m much more hesitant to pronounce the Irish “back” with the upcoming murderer’s row ahead of them of No. 18 Michigan, No. 9 Stanford and at No. 6 Oklahoma in the next five weeks. If the Irish win at least two of those games, then let’s talk.
UTES RUN WILD: If you didn’t stay up for the end of the “Holy War” between BYU and Utah, you missed one of the craziest endings in recent college football history. Utes fans prematurely rushed the field twice – the second incident resulting in a 15-yard penalty that gave the Cougars a second chance to send the game to overtime with a field goal. Fortunately for Utah, BYU missed. If I’m Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, I’m heading straight to the office of athletic director Chris Hill today and saying, “Make sure the fans never storm the field again as long as I’m coaching here.”
CU LATER? Coaching hot seats are certainly heating up for the likes of Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley and Kentucky’s Joker Phillips – among others. But no one should be under more scrutiny than Colorado head coach Jon Embree. What took place in Fresno on Saturday was a complete embarrassment for a once-proud football program.
The Buffaloes lost 69-14 at Fresno State and trailed 55-7 at halftime. This comes one week after they lost at home to Sacramento State of the Football Championship Subdivision. Now 3-13 in Boulder, Embree’s tenure has been so miserable that athletic director Mike Bohn is rightfully feeling the heat, as well.
TEAM TITANIC: Can the John L. Smith era at Arkansas get any worse? One week after losing to Louisiana-Monroe, the Razorbacks were beaten like a drum in a 52-0 loss to No. 1 Alabama. Arkansas was without star QB Tyler Wilson, but there’s no excuse for turning the ball over five times, gaining 44 total yards of offense in the first half and quitting on the field – which even Wilson came out and said he witnessed. A team that was supposed to compete for a national title looks like it could very well finish the season with a losing record.
Top five games: Week 4
5. Missouri vs. No. 7 South Carolina: If Missouri QB James Franklin is healthy, the Tigers will be a big test for a South Carolina team that nearly lost to Vanderbilt in Week 1.
4. No. 22 Arizona vs. No. 3 Oregon: Rich Rodriguez looks like a savior in the desert, but his defensive struggles at Michigan have been well-chronicled. How will his “D” stand up to the Oregon offensive machine?
3. No. 18 Michigan vs. No. 11 Notre Dame: Coming off a huge win at Michigan State, the Irish better not pat themselves on the backs for long because they have lost three straight to Michigan, including a gut-wrenching loss in Ann Arbor last season.
2. No. 15 Kansas State vs. No. 6 Oklahoma: About the only thing Bill Snyder hasn’t done since returning to K-State in 2009 is beat Oklahoma. Can he do it on the road in Norman?
1. No. 10 Clemson vs. No. 4 Florida State: Florida State’s dominant defense takes on Clemson’s high-powered offense in the game of the year so far.
Photo: Kyle Terada/US Presswire