The USC Trojans (10-1) find themselves in a precarious situation as they head into their final regular season game against traditional rival UCLA (6-4) at the Rose Bowl. USC fell out of the top spot spot in the national rankings following a week 10 loss to #2 ranked Oregon, 26-23, in a game the Trojans dominated until an epic 4th quarter collapse sealed their doom. Since that game, USC has been trying to find some way to get back into the top 4 rankings in order to get a shot at the national championship but have, thus far, been shut out. Is there a way for them to sneak back into it?
The answer to the question is a resounding “Yes” but only if a number of things fall the Trojans’ way. First, they will have to knock off a talented UCLA Bruins squad on the road. If they can manage that, they would then get a return match against Oregon in the PAC 12 championship. If they can beat the Ducks in that game they would likely get a top 4 ranking but there is still a chance they might be on the outside looking in. Aside from Oregon, top ranked Auburn, TCU, Alabama, Michigan State and Florida State are all currently ranked ahead of USC. Auburn and Alabama seem headed towards a week 15 showdown of biblical proportions. The heated rivalry could not get any bigger than the one they have coming this season and it is anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top. In truth,USC fans really need to root for the Tigers of Auburn because a ‘Bama victory could have have the committee placing both Alabama and Auburn in the top 4 while an Auburn win would all but end the Crimson Tide’shopes.
The rest of the story is complex. TCU has just one game left on its plate and that contest is against a 4-7 SMU team that really does not appear capable of upsetting the high octane Horned Frogs. It would seem probable that TCU is in the playoffs at this time while the Auburn/Alabama winner has the inside track to a spot in the final 4 assuming Texas A&M does not sneak into the SEC title game against #8 Georgia. The Georgia/SEC winner game could easily see the victor gaining a spot in the top 4.
That leaves Michigan State and Florida State as the two clubs USC would have to leap frog over. The Spartans if MSU seem a good bet for the final spot but, first, they will need to defeat #15 Wisconsin in the Big 10 final and that is no small task when one considers that the Badgers blasted MSU, 43-27, back in week 4! A loss by the Spartans would leave one final team, the Seminoles of FSU, blocking the road for the Trojans. FSU (11-0) has been stellar all year and have one more regular season clash against Florida on their schedule. The Gators (4-7) have alot to play for here but it is highly unlikely they can upend the Seminoles. If that holds true, FSU would only have to dump the #11 Hokies of Virginia Tech in the(10-1) ACC title game in order to secure a final 4 slot. Of course, that is no sure thing either considering the Seminoles narrowly edged the Hokies in week 5, 35-27, rallying from a 24-10 half-time deficit to gain the W.
In the final analysis, the likly final 4 grouping probably will not include USC even if the Trojans can beat both UCLA and Oregon. Auburn/Georgia/Alabama should get in as should TCU , Florida State, and Michigan State but ya never know!