SLASH AND DASH: On USC's game-winning drive, Joe McKnight contributed 54 Yards and caught the two-point conversion.Â McKnight finished with 105 all-purpose yards as the Trojans head to Washington Saturday for their Pac-10 opener.Â Photo Credit: AP photoBest in the Nation?
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer
USC proved once again on a national stage that they will not only take on all comers, but that they will beat all comers, home or away. Two questions arise from this game. Is USC the best football program in the nation, and can they win a national title with a true freshman at quarterback?
USC just went into Ohio St, with a scaled down playbook for freshman quarterback Matt Barkley and still came away with a victory. Imagine if quarterback Mark Sanchez had returned for his senior year and was playing in that game. The game would not have been close.
With USC's rÅ½sumÅ½ during the Pete Carroll era, it is hard to argue against the Trojan's having the best program in college football. They'll play anybody, which a number of the top schools in the nation cannot say, and they beat everybody, which Ohio State certainly cannot claim. So take them out of the conversation.
Ohio State is probably happy to get USC off of their schedule. Auburn and Arkansas have not shown any interest in putting USC back on their schedule. Texas is not going to ruin their regular season schedule by playing USC, and do not expect Florida, LSU, Alabama, or any of the other top SEC schools to schedule USC. If Notre Dame could get USC off of their schedule they probably would.
The only thing keeping USC out of the BCS National Championship game every year is the notion that the PAC 10 is an inferior conference.
The SEC is clearly the best college football conference. There is not much of an argument there. But SEC fans act like that conference is so much better than everybody else that they should go and play in the NFL for real competition.
The SEC is better than the PAC 10, but it is not that much better. And how do we really know how great the SEC is when they do not travel much out of their region for their non-conference schedule, and a number of their top schools schedule nothing but cream puffs. They go as far as to schedule Division I-AA schools.
There is this notion that USC is as great as they are because they play in a weak PAC 10 (even though it is usually a PAC 10 school that beats USC). But USC has beaten numerous highly ranked non-conference schools.
So what if USC played in the SEC? Would they win the conference title year-in year-out? No. But over a 10-year period they would win the title more than any other SEC school. If Florida can win the SEC title, then USC certainly could.
What if Florida played in the PAC 10? Would they run the table every year? Of course not, because they would have to play USC every year. Florida would stop USC from winning the conference title every single year, but over a 10 year period they would not beat out USC more times than not.
If there was a playoff system, which college football desperately needs, USC could not be held out anymore, and would win more titles than any other school. Because they are simply the best program in the nation.
But being the best program in the nation may not get them the title this season, unless Barkley can get a grasp of the offense really soon.
Barkley appears to be the real deal, and he's on the right track to be a future Heisman Trophy winner and first round NFL draft pick. In the future he will put the Trojans in position to win another national title. But this year, he's just not ready to lead them there.
So far USC has closed down their playbook for the most part because Barkley is a true freshman. Their running game and defense has carried them, even though Barkley is getting most of the press. At some point they are going to need Barkley to make a number of plays from the pocket when the defense expects him to make the plays.
So far the play calling has been extremely safe for Barkley, as it should be. A lot of dump off throws and a lot of play action passes. But can they run the table with that type of limited play from their passing game?
Mark Sanchez and John David Booty had the entire playbook at their disposal, and they ran it like a well-oiled machine, but they could not go undefeated. USC's running game and defense is going to have an off game at some point. Will Barkley be able to pick up the slack? Will Barkley be able to put this team on his back at various points during this season?
Probably not on both accounts. Barkley is just not ready for that type of workload. He will be a great one for the Trojans, but just not yet. But the win, and last minute drive at Ohio St., certainly will be a major confidence boost for him.
USC will have to watch out for a potential trap game this week when they travel to Washington. The Huskies may not be very good, but USC is coming off a major victory, and could be looking at a let down, just like last season after they defeated Ohio St. They lost their next game, at Oregon St.Â Â