November 06, 2008
Pete Carroll and the L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke don't exactly seem to see eye-to-eye about the justice of USC's position within the Bowl Championship Series, but on some level, I agree with both of them. Carroll is right: The BCS stinks. Blow it up. Plaschke (this time, anyway) is right: The BCS is the world we live in, and the Trojans have no room to complain for their imminent championship snub, no matter how many gruesome shutouts they pitch against the rest of the Pac-10.
USC's non-conference schedule is ambitious, maybe the most ambitious in the country. But you play who you play, not who thought you were going to play when you set up the dates. Ohio State's fall from 'elite' to merely 'very good' and the general malaise in the Pac-10 means the Trojans' slate can't compete with those of the one-loss teams in the SEC and Big 12, and them's just the breaks. Ask Auburn fans how that comparison goes sometimes.
Here's my question regarding when an obviously team can be snubbed and when it can't: If USC still carried a '0' in the loss column instead of a '1', is there any chance whatsoever the Trojans might drop two spots in the BCS after pounding Washington, into little flecks of dust? Would unbeaten Alabama or Texas Tech -- teams from the same conferences whose one-loss teams are currently shoving USC into the cold because of the lack of respect for the Pac-10 -- have any chance of jumping an undefeated USC? Or would the Trojans remain entrenched at No. 1? Because how can you drop a team from No. 1 that's outscored its last five major conference opponents 214-20?
If USC was still No. 1, I'm certain the answer would be, "You can't." At No. 4, 5, 7, whip them around all you like. But you don't play games with No. 1. No matter what was happening in other conferences, an undefeated USC playing the way the Trojans have over the last month -- a hypothetical juggernaut that did nothing different than the current juggernaut except beat Oregon State, even if it was in overtime or on a bad call or something -- would not be subjected to the polling whims that have Pete Carroll so frustrated. And the injustice of unthinking, hierarchical "auto-ranking" is probably even greater than dropping two spots after your third shutout in four games. If that was the case, I suspect Carroll's complaints about the system would remain a little closer to the vest. If he'd rather command respect without the schedule-based scrutiny that insists on snubbing one of the best teams he's put together in L.A., then that team shouldn't lose to Oregon State. When you're No. 1 and you win, nobody asks those kinds of questions.