January 01, 2009
Scroll down or click here for the Doc's New Year's live blog.
Southern Cal 38, Penn State 24. For the record, USC racked up as many yards (369) and more points (31) in the first half as any other team earned on Penn State all season. Mark Sanchez's yards and passer rating were more than double the averages of regular season opponents against PSU; his four touchdown passes nearly matched the number the Lions allowed through the air all season (six). Kirk Herbstreit was right that once you start talking about evidence of the Trojans' dominance, it's hard to stop, as he and Brent Musburger proved from the onset of garbage time in the second quarter.
This is not another line about USC against the Big Ten; I respect the Big Ten and I respect Penn State's near-perfect run through it, which is what makes SC's routine dominance so impressive in that context. Since 2003, the Trojans are 19-1 against teams from the other BCS conferences (including Notre Dame) by an average margin of 25.1 points per game, and since the '06 Rose Bowl loss to Texas have taken 12 straight non-conference games by at least two touchdowns. At least as impressive as the Pac-10's 5-0 bowl record is the fact that random teams from the conference are able to actually beat USC every now and then, because nobody else comes close.
Now: By far the highlight of this particular blowout (please, do not be deceived by the final score or Penn State's final yardage total, earned with the game well out of hand in the fourth quarter -- it was a blowout) was the open discussion of the Trojans splitting the mythical championship with the Florida/Oklahoma winner by taking the vote in the AP poll, as it did with LSU in 2003. This is not because I'd endorse USC for No. 1, necessarily; I hope the same discussion comes up on Texas' behalf when the Longhorns are on TV in the next few days, for the sake of the discussion and the general undermining of the "be-all, end-all" nature of the Florida-Oklahoma showdown. Nothing against the Gators or Sooners, who earned their positions at the top of the polls, but I can't respect the legitimacy of any game that excludes any team as overwhelming as this edition of Southern Cal. Its entire performance in the Rose Bowl was an air-tight argument against the absurdity of the two-team playoff.
Again, I'm not willing to say USC deserves to be the national champion. But I defy anyone who watched the Trojans methodically whittle another top-10 opponent into dust to honestly argue that they don't deserve a shot.