It's Oregon Week. And unlike the way we thought this would be playing out a couple of weeks ago, it means something.
Sure, that's how we were looking at it in preseason. The start of "a November to remember" and all the rest of it before the Trojans and the Ducks had a September they'd both like to forget.
Sure, USC got it together in October, something a defensively disabled Oregon may have only managed to do a bit the last two weeks with freshman quarterback Justin Herbert maybe saving Coach Mark Helfrich's job. But the Ducks ain't dead yet.
Good for them. Good for this game. And really, good for USC.
The Trojans need to get better. They need to play -- and beat -- better opponents to show they have actually gotten better.
They need this Homecoming Saturday (on ESPN at 4 p.m., we finally found out today) to test themselves and be tested. And it goes without saying, that they need to keep passing the tests. A four-game win streak isn't nearly enough after that 1-3 start. We're Just Sayin'.
*** Sure, USC caught a break with Washington holding on to edge Utah, giving the Utes a similar 4-2 Pac-12 South record (although with the tiebreaker against the Trojans) but this should not be about scoreboard watching, not in this league, this has to be about one thing, winning out -- nothing else . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And in this league, with these officials, you'd better be winning by at least a couple of scores late. For sure, you better not be tied late, the way Utah was, in a league famed for flag-throwing when not one, not two but three officials on three separate block-in-the-back fouls on Washington's game-winning punt return watched as if paralyzed. OK, Washington fans say there were just TWO uncalled blocks-in-the-back so no harm, no foul may be one way to look at it. But if you're a Utah team that's benefited from late-game calls against USC in recent years, you're still not very happy today. Nor should you be . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But the way things are playing out, Utah can win out and get another shot at Washington. Even if USC wins out, that might not be enough after not being ready to play in September . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And maybe that was a makeup non-call that works for USC since the UW-Utah flag-swallowing certainly helps the Trojans. But it doesn't help the Pac-12's reputation. In other leagues we've covered, we'd attribute that to knowing that Washington winning out means millions for a league that got shut out of the CFB Playoffs last year. But this is the Pac-12. We'll attribute it to incompetence and the amateur hour joke the league's officiating remains mired in no matter how much they say they're trying to get it better . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But they're not. The fact that all of those officials got swept up in the punt return and saw not one of those illegal blocks, or saw them and did nothing, is one more indictment here. Call just one of them, when everybody in the stadium and on TV can see them, when the guys on SportsCenter are highlighting them and laughing about them, you know they had to see them. If they didn't, that's even worse. The only conclusion is they just choked. Once again, The moment was too big for Pac-12 officials and they came up small as they so often seem to do . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But enough of the Pac-12. Talking about this isn't going to change anything, apparently. Nor is the way USC has been playing recently doing much either to change the nation's view of Clay Helton's program after writing the Trojans off in September . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But that 1-3 hole has been tough to climb out of. Look at this week's polls. USC (No. 27 in the AP Poll and No. 30 in the Coaches) still trails a Colorado team it beat by a bunch as well as others who probably have no business ahead of USC -- like Boise State, Houston, Tennessee and South Florida . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Give ESPN credit here. This week they did move USC into the Top 25 at No. 24 with this comment: "Remember all the talk about Clay Helton possibly not making it past one season? Well, that was before USC found its stride and now heads into November as one of the hottest teams in the Pac-12. The Trojans have won four straight, including a 45-24 win over Cal on Thursday, and find themselves back in the Pac-12 South race. The next two weeks will be key." . . . Just Sayin'.
*** So what, you say. Who cares about the rankings? Well, a UW-USC showdown in two weeks -- providing USC does not take Oregon for granted Saturday -- is a much bigger national deal if ESPN's College GameDay is looking for a place to land and there is one ranked Pac-12 team that could knock the other out of the playoffs . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And then there is this. The last tiebreaker in the Pac-12 involves using the CFB Rankings so national opinion actually does matter . . . Just Sayin'.
*** And who knows, a much better bowl game might be riding on the rankings. Especially if USC beats Washington, wins out and does not get into the Pac-12 Championship game because of the tiebreaker. A USC team winning out, with an eight-game win streak including one at Washington, would seem to be mighty attractive to the bowl folks, even the ones in Pasadena . . . Just Sayin'.
*** Sure, USC should at worst be 6-2 right now and that's USC's fault. Just checking out the polls, there are 11 Top 25 teams with two losses and one -- Florida State -- with three. A 6-2 USC team leading the Pac-12 South could well be Top 15 right now and creating some buzz with Sam Darnold. Which is why, of course, every game matters . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But ultimately there is this. After nearly two months of irrelevancy, USC kinda', sorta' matters. Win this week and we'll see how that plays out at Washington . . . Just Sayin'.
*** But the key here is . . . "win this week" . . . Just Sayin'.
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