Nick McAuley has an excellent column in today’s Daily Trojan, in which he explains the various bowl scenarios for the USC football team, including the Trojans’ outside shot at an invitation to the national-championship Fiesta Bowl.
The Trojans need a lot of help to put them in position for a national title, and the scenarios can get a bit complicated. First of all, USC — which is presently #6 in the BCS standings — needs to beat #7 Notre Dame, preferably by a large enough margin to really impress poll voters, this Saturday at 5:00 PM Pacific time.
Beyond that, here are the basics on what needs to happen, and the games USC fans should watch:
#1 Miami (10-0) needs to lose at least once, preferably twice.
The Hurricanes have two games left:
• This Saturday vs. Syracuse (4-7), 10:00 AM Pacific time
• Next Saturday vs. Virginia Tech (8-3), 10:00 AM Pacific time
#3 Oklahoma (10-1) needs to lose at least once.
The Sooners have two games left:
• This Saturday vs. Oklahoma State (6-5), 11:30 AM Pacific time
• Next Saturday vs. #12 Colorado (8-3), 5:00 PM Pacific time
#4 Georgia (10-1) needs to lose at least once.
The Bulldogs have two games left:
• This Saturday vs. Georgia Tech (7-4), 12:30 PM Pacific time
• Next Saturday vs. either LSU (8-3) or Arkansas (8-3), 3:00 PM Pacific time
(The identity of Georgia’s opponent next Saturday will be determined this Friday when LSU plays Arkansas at 11:30 AM Pacific time. Trojan fans should probably root for LSU, which is more highly regarded and probably has a better chance of beating Georgia.)
If all of those things happen, the Trojans are not guaranteed a Fiesta Bowl bid. But they would almost certainly be in the Top 3, along with Ohio State (13-0) and Iowa (11-1), both of whom have already finished their regular seasons. Ohio State would definitely be #1; the Buckeyes are bound for the Fiesta Bowl no matter what. But who would be #2? The one-loss Hawkeyes or the two-loss Trojans? I suspect both the sportswriters’ poll and the coaches’ poll would place Iowa #2 and USC #3. But USC’s strength of schedule — ranked first in the country, compared to Iowa’s rank of 40th — and its strong computer ratings would probably pull it ahead of Iowa in the BCS standings.
Here are a couple of things USC fans should hope for to help boost the Trojans’ statistical chances against Iowa, if it comes to that:
• Colorado beats Nebraska this Friday, 12:30 PM Pacific time
• Notre Dame stays in the BCS Top 10 despite losing to USC this Saturday
• Middle Tennessee State beats Utah State this Saturday, noon Pacific time
• Colorado beats Oklahoma next Saturday, 5:00 PM Pacific time
(Why? Because two Colorado wins should vault the Buffaloes into the Top 10, giving the Trojans “quality win” points for our 40-3 thrashing of Colorado earlier in the season; likewise, if Notre Dame stays in the Top 10, the Trojans will get “quality win” points if we beat the Irish this Saturday; and a Utah State loss would further depress Iowa’s strength of schedule, robbing the Hawkeyes of a few points.)
If this USC-Iowa scenario happened, it would undoubtedly ignite a huge national controversy over the BCS system, just like last year when Nebraska was widely considered an “illegitimate” national-championship contender. Big Ten officials would cry their eyes out, Iowa fans would blame the computers, pundits would protest that a two-loss team shouldn’t beat out a one-loss team for the spot, and much ink would be wasted complaining about it all — but USC would, nonetheless, get a chance to play for the national championship on January 3 against Ohio State. And that’s something to hope for. (Although, in this scenario, if USC won the Fiesta Bowl and Iowa won the Rose Bowl, the sportswriters might award their #1 ranking to Iowa, placing USC at #2 and creating a “split championship.” The coaches’ poll is required to award the #1 ranking to the winner of the BCS championship game, but the Associated Press is not.)