Extra Innings: USC could still make a Rose Bowl appearance

This week of college football is incredibly important for USC. This weekend’s matchups could easily set the Trojans up for a New Year’s Six Bowl. Looking at the remainder of the schedule, USC may find a Rose Bowl berth at the end of the season. Although that sounds ludicrous, especially since this team has shown little to no signs of consistency through the first four games of the season, it is actually very possible.

Everyone knows that the Pac-12 South isn’t good at football. Realistically, there are two teams that could win the southern half of the conference: USC and Arizona State. These two teams will go head to head at the end of October, and I have a feeling that game will decide the Pac-12 South’s championship representative.

But back to the reason this weekend is so important: First, USC is coming off a very important win over Washington State. A win over Arizona will set USC up for a long winning streak over Colorado and Utah before it plays in the crucial matchup against the Sun Devils. However, it is a road game, something USC has struggled with conquering this season.

The second important matchup on Saturday is Stanford vs. Notre Dame. If USC makes it to the Pac-12 championship, the Trojans will most likely face Washington or Stanford. It’s not out of the question for USC to best either of these elite teams. For one, I think the Trojans are more than capable of limiting the Cardinal offense. They held senior running back Bryce Love and sophomore quarterback KJ Costello to just 17 points earlier this season. Once freshman quarterback JT Daniels and co. figure things out, this team should be able to score more than 17 points on Stanford.

USC fans should root for the Cardinal this weekend for two reasons: The Trojans want to see No. 7 Cardinal again, and No. 7 Stanford is playing No. 8 Notre Dame. A victory would establish them as an elite team to be considered for the College Football Playoff. With all of the upsets lately, I think it is entirely possible that the Cardinal could squeak out a top-four seed before the end of the season. This would be the best case scenario for the Trojans.

If USC enters the Pac-12 Championship against Stanford given the aforementioned circumstances, there is no way the Trojans won’t find a Rose Bowl berth. If USC wins, they will somehow be the champions of the Pac-12 and face the best team in the Big Ten. However, if the Trojans lose, it will only further establish Stanford’s seeding, thereby making it ineligible for a Rose Bowl appearance as the team will be playing in the playoff, leaving USC as the second-best team in the Pac-12.

This is all hypothetical and by no means do I expect the Cardinal to be a playoff team, but it isn’t impossible.

Back to USC: Excuses are no longer valid this week. I’m getting tired of hearing Daniels and his receivers talk about the chemistry not being there. I understand that the Mater Dei alumnus has played with freshman receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for several years and feels comfortable with him. However, we are now in the fifth week of the season. It is time that Daniels starts feeling comfortable with receivers junior Michael Pittman Jr. and redshirt sophomores Tyler Vaughns and Velus Jones Jr.

The win over Washington State showcased the improved chemistry between the receivers and quarterback, but this chemistry must be perfected before USC faces Arizona State. If this happens, USC should have no problem running the table, — with the exception of Notre Dame — and finish the season with a 9-3 record (as I predicted at the start of the season).

A convincing win this week will work wonders for the team’s morale. If this game can serve as a model for how USC should play football, the Trojans won’t have a problem going on a seven-game winning streak, securing a Pac-12 championship berth and possibly finding a way to beat Stanford, if not back their way into a Rose Bowl appearance.

Sam Arslanian is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.