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Dr. Saturday

Doc 5: BCS-era number fives -- No. 3 USC

Mark Sanchez USC Rose Bowl 2009
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Mark Sanchez celebrates winning the 2009 Rose Bowl

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.

Happy Cinco de Mayo week. As we celebrate the fifth day of the fifth month of the year in our weekly Doc 5 feature, why not stick with the five theme?

This week we're going to rank the top five No. 5s from the BCS era. Why would they be significant? Well, with the new four-team Playoff, these teams would have been the first team left out of a tournament if the BCS rankings were used in lieu of the selection committee.

Yes, we've already redone the BCS with a Playoff this offseason, but we didn't give the No. 5s any love. Now it's time to do that. Let's get started.

TOP FIVE BCS-ERA NUMBER FIVES

No. 3: 2008 USC

USC lost too early and fell too far.

A popular theory in the BCS era was that an early loss wasn't as penalizing as a late loss. Lose early, and you have plenty of time to work your way back up the standings. Lose late, and you may be out of luck.

2008 USC lost in the third week of the season. A week after demolishing then-No. 5 Ohio State 35-3, the Trojans traveled to Oregon State. At halftime, USC was down 21-0.

The Trojans made it a one-score game in the third quarter, but after Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers scored to make it 27-14 with 2:39 in the fourth quarter, a USC comeback was off the table.

The loss dropped USC to ninth in both the AP and coaches polls. The Trojans never recovered despite going undefeated the rest of the way.

After starting the season at No. 3, a relatively weak Pac-12 might have been USC's undoing. Throughout the rest of the season, USC only played two ranked teams, and both of them (Oregon and Cal) were ranked in the 20s at the time of the game.

Just half of the Pac-10 ended up bowl eligible and Notre Dame, USC's long-time rival, was just 7-6. It was not a good season to try to make up ground.

However, there was one final chance to break into the top four. A one-loss Florida team met undefeated and then-No. 1 Alabama for the SEC title in the conference's championship game. A Florida loss would have put the Trojans into the top four. Florida won, and Alabama only slipped to fourth.

While this Trojan team may not have been as talented as past USC teams with names like Bush and Leinart, the defense might have been just as stout. The linebacking corps included Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews, Rey Maualuga and Kaluka Maiava and Taylor Mays was at safety.

However, the Mark Sanchez-led offense didn't have hte name recognition of Bush and Leinart and White and Williams, and it struggled at times, scoring just 17 points in wins over Cal and Arizona.

Had USC been armed with two presumptive Heisman candidates on the offensive side of the football, the perception of the Trojans might have moved them up a notch or two. Instead, coupled with a relatively weak Pac-12, USC would have been on the outside looking in as two Big 12 and two SEC teams played for the title.

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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