Someone out there is watching out for USC. Yeah, the 3-3 Trojans aren't dead yet.
Even after three losses in the last four games and losing a head coach for the season -- or forever, however you want to look at it -- and an AD -- for the Notre Dame game, and despite being in fifth place in the Pac-12 South, they've got a shot.
That's one of the benefits of having third-ranked and unbeaten Utah -- a three-point underdog -- coming into the Coliseum Saturday (4:30 p.m., Fox).
Of course, that was the benefit of going to South Bend last week -- a chance to wipe away the ugly headlines of last Sunday and Monday. And after putting up 21 points and coming from behind to lead 31-24 late in the third period, USC's second-half swoon kicked in again. Sark may have been gone but his spirit survived his leaving.
So ESPN's College GameDay won't be coming to the Coliseum as it apparently was with a USC win. In one way that might be just as well. Who wants a rehash of last week although a win over Notre Dame would have been sweet.
But it's still there for this team. Just as it was in 2013 for that beloved bunch of shorthanded Trojans who lost in South Bend but went on to defeat a fourth-ranked Pac-12 visitor in the Coliseum -- Stanford -- with just a dozen defenders in one of the great single game moments for USC football -- ever.
Ed Orgeron isn't here but could this team under Clay Helton resurrect Coach O's "one team, one heartbeat" mantra? They'll get the chance. But Clay will have to overcome at least some of the head-scratching coaching decisions that have let this team down.
This team certainly has far better numbers heading into the second half of a season than that 2013 team did. Does it have the ability to come together as a team and a coaching staff the way that team did after Lane Kiffin's midseason dismissal? We'll soon know.
CEO has said that one of the accomplishments of that team that made him proudest was how they ran off six straight Pac-12 wins. Only Pete Carroll's 2008 team also managed that in the last seven seasons.
But it could happen here. This year. There are six league games left. And if USC is favored against the Utes, who else should they not at least have a shot to beat in the second half of the season? Although this team would have to do something that team couldn't -- beat UCLA.
Sure, you could make the case that as likely as it is that USC could beat any one of those teams, it could lose to almost any one of them as well.
It's a sudden-death season starting Saturday. Win and the way is clear. Sudden death every week. But to win, USC must play more than half the game. Can't have its offense take off half the game and its defense take off the other half.
Can't gain 590 yards and get beat. Can't hold a team like Notre Dame to a lone field goal on seven possessions and then give up drives of 90 and 91 yards. Can't fold up in the second half.
Can't play all out down 24-10 and choke it away after leading 31-24. Can't coach, or play, scared. Can't excuse having no two-minute offense by saying the other team stole their playbook and we had to just throw those three-yard checkdowns.
Can't not defend the run or tackle the guy with the ball. Can't give a guy with almost as much speed as Adoree' Jackson a running start. Might want to try jamming a guy like that at the line of scrimmage or at least redirecting him and then running with him.
Can't spring a guy like Ronald Jones II on one play for 65 yards and then get him just eight yards on the next five carries. Have to get this run thing right so you can run it when you have to even when they know it's coming. You know, the way Notre Dame did. When it mattered.
Do that and you'll be able to throw the ball deep off play action. Sure, it's a tried-and-true formula. But it works. Another thing that works is having linemen who continually get penalized come over to the sidelines and watch where they won't draw any flags. Hard to get a drive going on the ground when you constantly stop yourself.
By Saturday that has to stop. And this is the kind of thing the team -- we're talking the players, especially the guys who were here for 2013 -- have to enforce. No more self-sabotaging. There's enough of that around this program.
Figure it out and this team has a chance. That's all you can ask. Win out and the whole world will love you. First of all, the world of college football needs USC to be good. As does the Pac-12, although it's been so long maybe Larry Scott & Co. can't even comprehend what that would mean.
With all that this team has gone through, just as that 2013 team had to, there's no question they can go out on a high note. Still.
But the days to do that are dwindling.
But do it and then you have to get some help from someone else in the Pac-12 giving the Utes a second loss. That won't be easy considering Utah misses Stanford and finishes up against Oregon State, Washington, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado.
But here's our dream scenario. Say somebody does trip up Utah. Win out and USC has the tie-breaker. That would get the Trojans into the Pac-12 championship game for the first time if the two tie. A seventh straight Pac-12 win in a rematch over Stanford, say, and here's the perfect revenge on a league that hasn't done USC any favors for as long as anyone can remember.
Because a 10-3 USC would obviously not get the call from the College Football Playoff committee. But neither would the team USC beat. Too bad. So sad. Sorry about that. Although we're guessing in that scenario, with Pac-12 officials, USC would have to be about three TDs better than whoever it would play in the championship game.
And sure, this is all as hopefully far-fetched as we could possibly make it. But for these seniors, just as for those on their way out in 2013, it's there for them.
If they make it happen. If they can overcome the coaching and the administration and all the rest of it that they had no part in bringing down on themselves.
Maybe, just maybe, through their effort and ability to play consistent football even in this atmosphere of constant inconsistent support, they can pull this off.
All you can ask for is a chance. The Trojans still have one. At least this week they do.
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