It’s another Saturday afternoon, there’s college football everywhere and yet the day is grim and dull. Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because the USC Trojans don’t factor into the post-season. (Full disclosure: I am a Trojan fan and have been a dedicated Trojan fan for many years.) The football program is in the second year of a two-year post-season ban, which means they aren’t part of any screwball BCS rankings and they can’t play in a bowl game. But, what this also means is that the Trojans are nobody’s evil menace; they aren’t fodder for national analysts and know-it-alls to yak about; they aren’t causing any Top 10 teams to be shaking in their cleats at the thought of having to play them in a bowl game (just ask Oklahoma); and they aren’t giving Lou Holtz nightmares (his last loss as coach of Notre Dame was against, yep, the Trojans).
In fact, I’m sitting in front of the television, watching the ABC Game of the Week between Oregon and Stanford (this one being nicknamed “The Game of the Decade” because last week’s game, LSU vs Alabama, already used “The Game of the Century”). So far, it’s a “defensive battle,” which is another way of saying it’s a dreadful bore. It’s been three-and-out, three-and-out, three-and-out, ad nauseum. And, this game showcases the consensus Heisman Trophy winner Andrew Luck and that fast-and-furious Oregon offense. And it’s still a big yawner. (Okay, in all honesty, the game ended up being pretty entertaining, mostly because Stanford lost.)
Which leads me to my theory: without the Trojans on the national scene, the college football landscape is just plain boring. College football NEEDS the Trojans.
I can’t say for sure because I’ve never been on the other side of Trojan Nation but from what I gather, there are people out there who despise USC. I mean, really, really hate the Trojans. I want to say it’s based on envy. Of course, there could be other reasons why everyone outside of USC hates the Trojans although I don’t know what they would be. Because, think about it: except for a few difficult years between John Robinson’s second tenure as head coach and the arrival of the new millennium’s Trojan savior Pete Carroll, the USC football program has had a phenomenal history of success. We have six Heisman Trophy winners (only two other universities have more…Notre Dame and Ohio State each have seven, which we would’ve had, too, if it weren’t for one unnamed selfish, greedy running back who decided he was more important than the university he played for) and 11 national championships. The Trojans have played in 47 bowl games (second only to Alabama). And, USC’s 33 appearances in the Granddaddy of them All – the Rose Bowl – and the Trojans’ 24 wins in said Rose Bowl are the most of any Division I team for any school in a single bowl. That’s success.
While the East Coast and SEC bias is alive and well, it’s hard to deny USC’s consistent level of success. And, for most of those years (up to 2002, when Carson Palmer was the first USC quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy), the team mostly fielded mediocre quarterbacks. We had great running backs (we were nicknamed Tailback U., after all, and some of the best running backs in college football history came from USC, including four of our Heisman winners: Mike Garrett, OJ Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen) and some of the greatest defensive players ever to set foot on a football field (Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu, Junior Seau, Anthony Munoz, Willie McGinest, to name only a small handful). And, once we got used to having a good QB behind center, our team has played some of the best at that position, including Matt Leinart, our sixth Heisman Trophy winner, and our current Golden Boy Matt Barkley.
So, what’s not to hate?
I suppose if I were not a member of the Trojan Family, I would be irritated by USC, too. There’s a certain kind of boredom that can come with too much success. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Boston Celtics.) But, in terms of the national picture of college football, without the team you love (or love to hate), all you’ve got left are SEC teams and what’s so great about that?
The thing that is so awful about the absence of USC on the national scene is that the Trojans’ infractions do not come anywhere near the sanctions the program received. (When ESPN’s College Game Day came to USC for the Stanford-USC game a few weeks ago, one of the signs spotted in the crowd said: “99% of the sanctions; 1% of the infractions.” I couldn’t agree more!) Considering some of the unbelievably serious infractions other teams have openly admitted to and NOT been sanctioned for – how about Cam Newton’s pay-to-play at Auburn or Oregon’s relationship with professional recruiter Willie Lyles or Ohio State’s full plate of issues involving special benefits…and I’m not even going to talk about Penn State’s criminal issues in this blog – it’s amazing and sad that USC has been penalized for one (that’s right, ONE) player’s bad and selfish decisions.
When the Trojans are available for post-season play, there are endless conversations about BCS rankings and bowl game possibilities. There are hours of analysis over Heisman Trophy possibilities and NFL draft placements. There are countless opinions expressed about Barkley vs. Luck or DeAnthony vs. Marqise. There are reminiscences of the Trojans’ greatest teams. And, there are complaints about how unfair it is that USC is not only a good team, nationally ranked and filled with future NFL Hall of Famers but that the team plays in fabulous weather, the campus is minutes away from the beach, beautiful babes abound, Hollywood is right up the street and there are those gorgeous Song Girls. So, however you feel about USC, without the Trojans in the national picture, the national picture loses its excitement and becomes just plain boring.
There are two games left to USC’s 2011 season. Starting next year, the Trojans come off sanctions and will be available for post-season shenanigans. The fun begins in earnest as discussions and analyses and armchair quarterbacking can go full speed. Yippee.
What do you think about the Trojans? Do you love ‘em or, well, are you from Notre Dame or UCLA?! Let’s hear your opinions below.
More from entertainment