I was talking to a USC alum recently and was expressing my disappointment at the football team this year.
There’s no way USC can win a national championship. No way the team can win the Pac-10 title. And no way the Trojans can compete in a BCS bowl.
It wasn’t exactly the type of season I wanted the football team to have my senior year. After all, fans and students assume near perfection at this point when it comes to coach Pete Carroll and crew.
The expectations for the football season are basically as follows:
No losses would be a great, but expected, season. One loss would be fine as long as it was early enough in the season for the Trojans to work their way back into title contention. Two losses would be shameful, but still somewhat acceptable as long as the team would win the Pac-10 and compete in the Rose Bowl.
Three losses or more would be simply unacceptable. And that’s where the team stands now with one game left to play in its schedule.
I was ranting on a little bit to the alum, and at one point I said the recent blowout losses to Oregon and Stanford were absolutely embarrassing to be a part of during my tenure at the school.
That’s when he stopped me.
He told me it wasn’t too long ago that USC would die for a three-loss season (you know, the one we dread as fans nowadays).
He referenced me back to the forgettable USC football teams of the 1990s, when he attended the university. He explained that many of those teams were tough to watch for fans and students everywhere.
During the decade, the Coliseum was rarely full for games. The team never was a real threat in competing for a national championship or a Pac-10 title. And throughout the ‘90s, USC suffered an unimaginable eight consecutive losses to the Bruins from ’91 to ’98.
Could you even imagine that happening today?
The tough times for USC football extended all the way through 2001, until Carroll finally turned the program around and instilled the type of hard-nosed players and winning attitude we’ve come to know and love today.
This reference back to the ‘90s, however, got me to thinking, and I dug deeper into the numbers to see how those teams stacked up to the current USC squad.
If you look at the win-loss records from 1990 through 2001, USC racked up only 74 wins against 57 losses. That’s a winning percentage of .564.
Since that time, USC has had a remarkable record of 78-11 for a winning percentage of .876. Not to mention, the program has wrapped up two national championships and seven consecutive Pac-10 titles.
So yeah, maybe USC won’t compete for a national championship or Pac-10 title this year, but is it something to be embarrassed about?
After looking over the numbers, the answer is no.
A “disappointing” three-loss season is actually a testament to how strong the program is right now. No other team has compiled as many wins as USC since 2002, and no other team may go through another stretch like USC has had again.
So although the game on Saturday doesn’t have any national title implications — that game will be between Florida and Alabama — and it doesn’t have any Pac-10 title implications — that would be the Oregon State vs. Oregon game tonight — it is nothing for USC fans to get upset about.
A 9-3 record may not be what we expected, but it shouldn’t be considered an embarrassing season if it ends up that way. If the Trojans win Saturday and win their bowl game (wherever that may be), it can once again walk away with a double-digit win season.
Last time I checked, that wasn’t so bad.
But I think there is one question lingering in the minds’ of Trojans fans everywhere.
Is this season the beginning of the end for USC’s dominance in the college football landscape or is it simply a blip on the radar?
It’s true that the Pac-10 may be stronger conference now than it has been in years past. And it’s true that the quarterbacking in the conference may be the best ever during the Pete Carroll ever. It’s also true that USC may have lost some of its swagger this season.
But, it also can’t be forgotten that USC lost eight starters on defense from last season, had an extremely tough road schedule (traveling to Ohio State, Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame), played six of its first nine games away from the Coliseum, had a true freshman at quarterback and lost some serious playmakers, including Taylor Mays, Matt Barkley, Stafon Johnson and Damian Williams, for extended periods of time.
That is an awful lot to handle for one team, even if it is super talented.
I don’t think this year marks the downfall of the Trojans. My vote goes for blip on the radar.
Despite the tough season, at least one thing can keep Trojans’ fans happy. It certainly doesn’t seem like the teams of the ‘90s will be back any time soon.
“Soft Hands” ran every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.