5 Thoughts - USC's Unbelievable Run

Posted Oct 30, 2006

Now that USC lost to Oregon State, it's easier to take a step back and realize just how amazing the last few years have been under head coach Pete Carroll. Can Boise State really play? Should we be talking about Michigan and Ohio State for the national title? These and more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

Five Thoughts: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4
Week 5 | Week 6 |
Week 7 | Week 8

In honor of USC

By Pete Fiutak   
1.  The major sports story of the weekend wasn’t St. Louis winning the World Series, no one outside of eastern Missouri and the greater Detroit area could even name who played in it. The passing of Red Auerbach was certainly sad, but as a friend of mine put it, “he was still alive?”  No, the big buzz was about USC losing a regular season game, and rightly so. The Trojans had won 27 straight Pac 10 games, 38 regular season games, and 18 straight on the road before being upset by Oregon State.

Has everyone really realized what an amazing run it’s been, and continues to be under Pete Carroll?

The last three losses came thanks to a tipped two-point conversion in the final moments against Oregon State, one of the all-time greatest performances by Vince Young in a thrilling 41-38 Rose Bowl, and in overtime, thanks to a missed field goal, against Cal in 2003. Under Carroll, ten of the 11 losses have come by seven points or fewer. In fact, the average loss has been by an average of 3.9 points with the worst defeat coming to Notre Dame in 2001, 27-16.  It’s sort of wrong that it takes a loss to fully appreciate everything USC has done. If USC bounces back immediately and keeps on rolling, as college football fans, let’s enjoy the ride.

Maybe, just maybe, Boise State can play

By Pete Fiutak   
.  In case you forgot, Boise State obliterated the same Oregon State team that just beat USC. Actually, that’s wrong. The Beaver team the Broncos beat had top RB Yvenson Bernard when it got its doors blown off 42-14. Yeah, I’m front and center in the line to argue about how lousy Boise State’s schedule is and how the team doesn’t deserve to play for the national title ahead of several one-loss teams, but that doesn’t mean the team can’t play. Are you really sure Boise State can’t beat someone tough? Look at how Texas Tech (who lost to Colorado) pushed Texas. Look at how Ole Miss battled Auburn. Look at how Oregon State beat USC.

The Broncos don’t have the talented depth to survive a season unscathed in a top league like the SEC or Big 12, but in this crazy year where upsets are happening all over the place, are so sure they couldn’t beat someone in the top ten. Dismiss from your mind that opening day blowout loss at Georgia last year; that was last year. These Broncos have a veteran quarterback, a legitimate All-America candidate in RB Ian Johnson, and, arguably, the program’s strongest, most talented defense ever.

Count me in.

If the Broncos go unbeaten, I want to see them play in a BCS game. No, not the national championship, but sure, give them their spot in the sun in the Fiesta against Texas or in the Rose against either Michigan or Ohio State. I don’t care if they end up losing by 30; it’s all about the opportunity. With that said, I humbly request that you don’t throw this back in my face when I’m whining after the Longhorns get up 27-0 in the first half.

The rivalry so nice let's do it twice

By Richard Cirminiello
. If the purpose of the BCS is to pit the nation's two best teams against one another, why hasn't there been more of a groundswell about a rematch between Michigan and Ohio State in Glendale if 1) the teams play a competitive game when they meet in Columbus Nov. 18 and 2) the Big East fails to deliver an undefeated team? If you believe, as I do, that the Buckeyes and the Wolverines are the two best teams in the country today, why would you feel any differently if, say, Michigan loses to Ohio State 26-20? Or, even worse, if the favored Buckeyes lose after having cruised through their schedule. Listen, as it stands today, there are no dominant one-loss teams in America or any that lost early and have been unstoppable since. So why shouldn't the loser of next month's epic game emerge out of a crowded field if the criteria is to select the two most deserving programs? Yeah, a rematch in a major bowl game would absolutely suck for everyone outside Columbus and Ann Arbor and good luck making sense of things if they split, but after USC lost on Saturday, don't we have to at least explore the possibility that Ohio State and Michigan are the two best teams in 2006, regardless of who wins in 20 days, 13 hours, 42 minutes and 26 seconds?

Will watch TV for food

Matthew Zemek
People are getting paid for being officials and replay reviewers, correct?

If that's the case, I'd like to apply for a job, especially in the replay booth in either Corvallis or Lubbock.

The worst injustices in the world are the ones happening in places such as Darfur, Baghdad, Kabul, Colombo, Moscow (especially if you're a Russian journalist), and numerous other locales where poverty, war and oppression reign. But for what it's worth, some pretty outrageous football felonies are being committed by arbiters who are making astonishingly bad calls in the face of ample evidence to the contrary.

Lots of calls made by officials (and reviewers) are judgment decisions, but a handful of plays are clearer than clear, and when these obvious plays arise in key situations, it should be refreshing for everyone involved. After all, when you see a replay and find that a given play had a definite outcome, there's a sense of relief even among fans of the disadvantaged team. Why? Because the integrity of the competition is upheld.

A team that fumbles--and sees on the jumbotron that it did indeed fumble--knows that it made a mistake. Knowing that you goofed is a much better feeling than wondering whether or not you messed up. When calls are clear, the disadvantaged team knows that it stumbled; the refs don't have to be blamed, and everyone can focus on the quality of play as the deciding factor in a football game. The integrity of college football increases each time a losing team doesn't have to think the refs took a game away from them. A healthy sport will involve losing teams who lose because of their own ineptitude or an opponent's excellence; a diseased sport, on the other hand, will feature teams who will hold the officials primarily responsible for a close loss.

So with all this being said, there were clear calls in Corvallis and Lubbock--clearer than clear, in fact--that were somehow missed. Steve Smith of USC was viewed by replay officials to be in bounds on his late 4th and 2 "catch" against Oregon State. Texas Tech receiver Joel Filani clearly caught a first-down-gaining pass with 2:27 left in the first quarter of Saturday night's game against Texas. Replay officials, though, overturned it.

At the end of the day, the calls didn't matter since Oregon State ended up holding on against USC and Texas Tech got a pick-six a few moments after it got jobbed, but that's not the point. Since we're bothering to pay people to do jobs in a billion-dollar industry, we could bother to make sure that someone will see Smith's foot out of bounds, or Filani was firmly in control of a football.

Again, where can I get an application form? I already watch 13 hours of TV every fall Saturday to begin with.

And the new nation's longest loser with 16 straight ...

By John Harris
5. The scrawl came across sometime Saturday afternoon…”game losing streak is over”.  That’s all I saw, but I knew instantly what it meant – Temple had ended its 20 game losing streak.  Al Golden’s Owls had knocked off Bowling Green on Saturday to give the first year head man his first collegiate victory…and first Gatorade bath as well.

I spent my afternoon in Durham at Wallace Wade Stadium watching Vanderbilt take on winless Duke.  My friend and former college teammate Bill O’Brien is Duke’s offensive coordinator, after having spent his coaching career with Georgia Tech and Maryland.  All afternoon, his offense struggled to put points on the board and loss number eight seemed to be on its way.  But, then the offense started to click in the fourth quarter.  After a couple of TDs, a successful two point conversion and a beautiful onside kick, the Blue Devils were within 16 with seven minutes left.  RB Justin Boyle then had an incredible 32 yard run for a TD to get them within ten, but the two point conversion came up, literally, inches short.  Having to now onside kick again down two scores, the Commodores recovered and scored one play after a near sack on third and three turned into a long run down to the one yard line

I watched Bill much of the game and saw him pulling aside his true freshman QB Thaddeus Lewis throughout the afternoon.  It was obvious how much coaching he had to do in this situation.  How much coaching do other coaches have to do?  Think about it…what do you think Jim Tressel tells Troy Smith when he comes off the field?  Nice throw?  Beautiful run?  What do you tell a true freshman QB when he misses a read…again and again?

All season we’ll talk and argue about the Ohio States, the Michigans and the West Virginias of the world, yet it’s these moments – a team like Temple getting a hard earned win or a team fighting all afternoon to get one – that make you appreciate how hard it is to actually get a win in college football.  Bill and I suffered through an 0-10 season many eons ago and it’s not pretty whatsoever; now he’s coaching through one.  For these kids and coaches, it’s not about the BCS formula or style points, it’s about just one time having more points than the other guy when the clock hits all zeroes.  Temple got to experience it yesterday and now the watch will be on Duke.