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USC showed up in Palo Alto with plans to continue their national championship run, and to end their three game losing streak to Stanford. But they were knocked around again. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
“The 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to.”
USC quarterback Matt Barkley made that statement last December when he announced that he would be returning for his senior season at USC. The unfinished business that he was talking about was winning a national championship, but after only three weeks, that unfinished business will more than likely remain unfinished.
USC started the season as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, dropped one spot each week since, and after losing to No. 21 Stanford this past Saturday, Barkley can nearly kiss those dreams goodbye.
A lot of critics thought that USC was a little overrated coming into the season because of their lack of depth along the roster and their inexperience on the defensive line. Well the critics may have been right. USC has some NFL caliber players on their team, but they do not look like they have enough to compete for the title.
Against Stanford, who has now defeated USC four years in a row, USC’s defense was easily ran on, giving up 202 rushing yards. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor accounted for 153 of those yards on 27 carries. Nearly as bad, USC did not register any sacks.
In USC’s first real challenge, their defensive line, which was the unit questioned the most, failed in the two departments where they need to excel at. They did a horrible job against the run, and they were unable to get to the quarterback. If they struggled against a Stanford team without quarterback Andrew Luck, who is now in the NFL, how are they going to deal with Oregon’s high-powered offense? Or UCLA’s drastically improved offense?
On the offensive side of the ball, USC’s line was just as bad against Stanford. The team only rushed for a combined 26 rushes on 28 carries. Curtis McNeal (Venice High School) rushed for 37 yards on seven carries, and USC’s season leading rusher Silas Redd finished the game with only 17 yards on 13 carries, for an average of 1.3 yards per rush. To make matters worse, the offensive line gave up four sacks, and Barkley was pressured into making bad throws throughout the game.
For the time being, Barkley is pretty much out of the Heisman trophy race. In his first real challenge he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and he threw two interceptions with no touchdown passes. On third down, where quarterbacks “earn their money,” USC was 1-for-13.
Barkley is out of the Heisman race for now, and USC is out of the national championship race for the time being. Their only shot at making it to the title game is to win out, hope there are not two undefeated teams from BCS conferences, and that the voters will put them in over other one-loss teams.
But looking at the schedule, will USC be a one-loss team by the end of the season? Not playing the way they did at Stanford.
This Saturday they have a home game against Cal, who nearly knocked off No. 12 Ohio State. The PAC-12 is much tougher this year than most people thought they would be, and USC’s conference schedule is back loaded with some tough teams.
They have games against No. 22 Arizona, No. 3 Oregon, and No. 19 UCLA. After their conference schedule is complete, they will host No. 11 Notre Dame. Running the table will be extremely tough, and if they do, they will still have the PAC-12 Championship Game, most likely against either Stanford or Oregon.
USC will have to defeat five ranked opponents to be in a position to get into the national championship game, and even if they do that it will be tough because they will have to rely on the voters. If there are two undefeated teams, then they can forget it. But if there is only one undefeated team, it would be hard to keep out a one loss USC team that defeated five ranked teams, and if Barkley can come up big over the rest of the season, he could find himself right back in the drivers seat in the Heisman race.