USC’s dynasty comes to an end

Birds circled the Coliseum after the game, but they might as well have been vultures, swooping in to prey on the dying legacy of the once-mighty Trojans.

This is really it. It’s over.

USC’s claim to the title of college football’s most dominant team officially came crashing down Saturday, when Stanford unabashedly dismantled the Trojans, 55-21.

Headache · Injured receiver Damian Williams looks to console devastated running back Joe McKnight during the Trojans’ lopsided loss to Stanford. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Headache · Injured receiver Damian Williams looks to console devastated running back Joe McKnight during the Trojans’ lopsided loss to Stanford. - Mike Lee | Daily Trojan

Oregon was just the beginning. Stanford was the confirmation.

The torch has been passed. USC’s reign atop the college football world and the Pac-10 is officially finished.

This statement could have been written after the shellacking in Eugene, Ore. But after Oregon’s subsequent loss and USC’s belief that anything could happen, people inserted USC back into Rose Bowl consideration.

Now, as USC used to gloriously proclaim, it left no doubt. Goodbye Rose Bowl, hello Sun Bowl — if that.

There was no tricky spread offense like the Ducks used to blast the Trojans on Halloween. There was no hostile crowd.

USC knew what was coming and it couldn’t do anything about it. All the Trojans could do was throw their hands in the air and concede, just like the rest of the conference used to do for them.

“They ran the same plays we thought they were going to run,” senior safety Taylor Mays said. “They ran power lead. It wasn’t complicated or intricate like Oregon’s offense at all.”

Stanford senior running back Toby Gerhart plowed through USC’s defense again and again, finishing with 178 yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns.

Gerhart, who USC coach Pete Carroll compared to Jerome “the Bus” Bettis earlier in the week, looked the part. And the entire USC defense went along for the ride.

“They blocked us — time, after time, after time, after time,” Carroll said.

USC appeared one step behind on nearly every play.

The Trojans were not able to dig themselves out of a bad start like we’ve seen so many times in the past when they’ve fallen behind at home.

They were not able to shore up the defense and stop the barrage either — Stanford just kept coming at them, not stopping until it put up 55 points, the most USC has ever given up.

Stanford recognized this was not the USC team of old.

“Everything wasn’t there,” Stanford cornerback Richard Sherman said. “It didn’t seem like they were playing as hard as they usually do.”

This USC team just didn’t have the same fight.

“In years past, you saw them destroy people,” Sherman said. “It didn’t matter what the score was, they were going to put 100 on everybody.”

In case you didn’t check your calendar, the game was played in November, a month in which Carroll had never lost.

Winning in November meant USC was always getting better every week.

Winning in November meant USC continued to peak while the rest of the nation was leveling off.

But to lose in such a lopsided way at home, in Carroll’s month and on Homecoming, signifies the end of an era.

The end of that streak is a symbol for the end of USC’s hegemony.

“The whole thing about November, I’ve never even known why that existed,” Carroll said. “But as a competitor, I freakin’ loved it. I loved the fact that we finished better than other teams.”

Carroll hates to see the streak end because it now puts USC in the “other teams” category. The man who is penning a book called Win Forever just found out that dominance has its limits.

Trojan fans also expected Carroll to be able to rebuild forever — to keep dominating even when he had to replace NFL-caliber players, year in and year out.

Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley was spectacular at times this season, but Saturday he showed he is not yet ready to hold this team together.

The boundless expectations placed on the 19-year-old were unfair and we all saw why firsthand. Barkley threw three bad interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and also fumbled on USC’s first drive.

“I’m not used to this. It doesn’t feel right,” Barkley said after the game.

The inexperienced linebacker unit has held tough this season, but it couldn’t — and shouldn’t — have been expected to perform like the four NFL players who held those positions last season.

Eventually, a team, no matter how great, finds itself on the other side. Sooner or later, the score is evened and the pendulum swings.

Because no one stays on top forever.

“Middle Ground” runs Mondays. To comment on this article, visit or email Josh


17 replies
  1. Janice
    Janice says:

    So our team has had a bad year. Big deal, they will come back. The way Barkley plays now, he will be a super star QB by the time he is a Senior. I currently live in KY, and hear all about the “wonderful and so much better SEC”, yet I also notice that the SEC “so called top ” teams play 3rd ranked teams to run up their stats. I would put ANY Pac 10 team up against an SEC team on any given Saturday and let the fur fly.
    I have grown up as a USC fan (67 years) and will remain so until I die. GO TROJANS!!

  2. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    Please people, you act like someone died. So we lost, how long did you expect us to remain on top. Coach Carroll is an awesome coach. I am sickened to hear so many just give up…..get real. We are a dynasty and will be for a long time. What did you expect after losing 8 players to the NFL, a true freshman QB, and so many injuries. I believe in my Trojan team and will forever be their #1 fan.

    Oh, and for you FAKE fans who left early last Saturday…shame on you. Don’t ever come back!!!!!!!!!!!1

    xoxox to Coach Carroll and the team!!!!!!!!!!

    Temecula, CA

  3. Henry Johnston
    Henry Johnston says:

    Rebuilding year my foot. I agree with Manning Up. Trojans always have “low” expectations of only winning rivalry games against UCLA and Notre Dame. What’s funny though is that SC usually never cared much about the “rivalry” with Notre Dame until this year. SC always tends to overlook their lesser opponents. This is why teams like Washington beat them this year. I also doubt USC’s football team will be ranked #1 in the pac10 conference next year. Seems like other programs in the Pac10 has caught up with recruiting and will do an awesome job next season.

  4. Manning UP
    Manning UP says:

    It’s sad to see that a team and it’s fan only cares about winning 2 games. What happened! Well, USC has always been over rated in a loser conference. Put USC up against any SEC team leading back to 5 years ago and USC would have never made it out to the Rose Bowl. University of Second Choice.

  5. Peter
    Peter says:

    All good things come to end … unfortunately. However, a “new” dynasty can by built. This season may be all but lost for ‘SC, but there is much hope for the Trojans next year. A program this great cannot be determined by one or two lopsided losses. ‘SC can rise from the ashes and re-claim itself someday soon. Fight on Pete!

      • Chris
        Chris says:

        Ppff, seriously? We have no reason to believe it can’t. Pete’s here, Barkley’s only gonna get more sure of himself, and the team will only improve. If you want them to go try a new OC or try some staffing changes, go ahead and say that. Sitting in your corner sucking your thumb is pathetic.

  6. alxhsa
    alxhsa says:

    now we know how lesser teams like UCLA and Notre Dame feel every year.

    but not for long…

    I’m sure this has been as painful, if not more, for the players and coaches as it has been for us fans. They will work hard during Spring and Summer to come back with a renewed attitude and determination to win three straight National Championships starting next season.

    Go Trojans. Fight On!

    USC for life!

  7. DK
    DK says:

    Get Norm Chow back here…and fUCLA.

    We will be just fine as long as we are still better than the Bruins and the Irish (and we are).

  8. Sharon R
    Sharon R says:

    The dynasty has not come to an end…we’ve been with the team since the ’60s, it’s merely taking a break! Fight on Pete and team!!

  9. MAG
    MAG says:

    As long as we beat UCLA, everything will be fine in Troy. Come on guys, you have two weeks to get your act together. Fight on!!!

  10. Richard Ableser
    Richard Ableser says:

    I’ve been a USC Trojan fan for over 60 years — A successful season always meant wins over Notre Dame and UCLA– there is still a chance.. FIGHT ON

  11. Rafael Sanchez
    Rafael Sanchez says:

    SC will be back next year. One subpar year does not topple a great team.

    Barkley and crew will work extra hard in the off season and do well again next year.

    Even with a subpar year it has been great to see the good games that they played. I would rather be SC than UCLA.

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