Watching from the sidelines this weekend

Lots of ways for USC to look in a weekend when the Trojans' only relevance in the Pac-12 or nationally is when it talks of its history with a Notre Dame team, also focusing on the past right now.

Oh to be relevant again. And not on the outside looking in. Maybe next year.

But instead USC fans get ready for a home game against Notre Dame whose only relevance is that neither team wants to finish up 7-5 in what seemed to be a promising season not all that long ago.

And now these titans of college football find themselves on Fox in a game with less reason to watch than Friday's Western Kentucky-Marshall shootout.

And sure the history here is special. USC proves that the way they'll be honoring the 40- and 50-year anniversaries of dramatic come-from-behind Trojans wins over the Irish.

And yet USC finds itself without even a rooting interest in the first of two Pac-12 games that mattered Friday -- Stanford at UCLA -- although we'll take that back. Every USC fan had a rooting interest in this one and life is good right now with the Bruins' dreadful effort, mirroring USC's a week ago. So the other game ended up mattering just as much, with a pair of 9-2 Arizona teams meeting for the Territorial Cup.

That's two teams USC should have beaten. And the one they did beat -- Arizona -- emerges as the Pac-12 South champ after losing to both USC and UCLA. What a job Rich Rodriguez has done in Tucson. His team just kept getting better. What a concept.

So bring on the history here. It's pretty much almost all USC has in a town where hosting Notre Dame doesn't get you the big game of the weekend.

Better make the best of it for now. And hope you get a bowl game that you like in a place you won't hate and Steve Sarkisian gets those 15 "much needed" practices he says he's hoping for.

At least that's realistic. Maybe the postseason will see the kind of improvement and development that hasn't exactly happened for USC in the regular season. Maybe with no worries about squad preservation, they'll amp things up again. And the slippage will stop.

So let's take a look ahead since Saturday might not matter all that much as to where USC and its 6-3 Pac-12 record lands. That would tie the Trojans for the No. 3 spot overall in the Pac-12 and tie them for No. 2 in the South behind an Arizona team USC beat along with 6-3 finishers UCLA and Arizona State.

But there are still lots of moving parts here even if the regular season is finished Saturday that make this bowl stuff tough to figure straightaway.

One piece of good news. The numbers seem to guarantee that USC is not in danger of having to head back to El Paso and a double return/rematch with the ACC rep -- Boston College.

Not sure which part of that would have been worse -- returning to El Paso where the residents have to hate everything USC football stands for. Or wondering if defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox would have been able to figure out how to stop the BC option by then.

So no worries there. Although some have Notre Dame headed to the Sun Bowl to play Utah. And as we work up from the bottom, it looks like Washington replacing USC from a year ago in the Las Vegas Bowl.

And right now, you have to think it's Oregon against either Alabama or Florida State in the Rose Bowl first-round College Football Playoff game. And we'd think maybe Arizona now gets the call from the Fiesta Bowl with UCLA and Arizona State, both of whom beat USC, splitting up the Alamo Bowl and the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl.

Had Arizona lost Saturday, USC might have had a better shot to get to San Diego for the first time over a team the Trojans beat. The opponent there would be a Big Ten team like Minnesota or maybe Iowa.

But right now it's another Big Ten team, one that had its own run-in with the NCAA recently, Penn State, that looks most likely to be the Trojans' opponent in the Foster Farms Bowl at the new Levi's Stadium Dec. 30. Or maybe it would be a many-uniformed Maryland team.

We're fine with either of those. We like the Dec. 30 date in Santa Clara and no need to practice on Christmas. And getting to see Levi's Stadium might excite some USC folks as a place to return to some day for a Pac-12 title game that continues to elude the Trojans.

Saying it with signs

We should have known Brian Kennedy had a hand in this. If you've been paying attention driving down the 110 or the 405 in recent days, you've probably seen the cardinal and gold billboards honoring the 40th anniversary of Anthony Davis' once-in-a-lifetime performance in USC's 55-24 come-from-behind win over the Irish that will never be duplicated in college football history.

"The second-greatest thrill in my lifetime,"says USC alum Kennedy, whose gift made possible the USC football practice fields and the Goux Gate. His greatest thrill?

That would be the 1963 USC Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin where "three of my college roommates were part of that one for USC," says Kennedy, whose Regency Outdoor Advertising company had the ability to make something like the Anthony Davis salute happen.

College sports should be about producing moments like those, Kennedy says, and cherishing them.

Focusing on USC-UCLA one last time

Interesting take on the USC-UCLA game by the folks at who do their in-depth statistical play-by-play individual player analyses for one college game a week. Last week it was USC-UCLA.

Their overall take on the game, which isn't the point here, was this quick shot: "The Bruins triumphed thanks largely to USC deciding early on it wasn’t going to bother covering wide outs, allowing quick points on the score board they never looked too likely to overcome."

But they digress. The main point is to track each player on each play and rate them. Here are their top three takes for USC, two good, one not so:

*** Leonard Williams, plus 4.8: Anything in plus territory is good. 3.0 or better is very good. "Williams is the stud of this unit and talked about as a potential Top-5 pick. He looked that in this game even if he didn’t have a sack. Was a force against the run all game long . . . notched three knockdowns and two hurries from his 25 pass rushing snaps."

*** Adoree Jackson, plus 3.0: "Josh Shaw may have made his return in this game but it was Jackson who saw the most snaps of any of the USC cornerbacks and rewarded them with an impressive performance, breaking up a couple of passes. Led the Trojans’ defense with 76 snaps, the same number as Hayes Pullard and Su’a Cravens.

*** Toa Lobendahn, minus 8.2: Trojans have had their share of issues on the offensive line and that has led them to starting true freshman guard Toa Lobendahn at left tackle. This game showed how out of his depth he is at that position with so little experience . . . was beaten for three sacks, a hit and four more hurries in his 42 pass blocking snaps.

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