Fri Sep 26 01:02am EDT
At least you can't say nobody saw this coming.
Jacquizz Rodgers is a star Thursday night, yes, but this has to be a 12-alarm siren for USC, and much more so for the pundits who keep voting the Trojans into the mythical championship on September. Four losses to unranked teams as a double-digit favorite in three years is more than mere cracks in the facade.
And this one is much tougher to dismiss than the others -- against Oregon State in '06, against Stanford last year, the Trojans still controlled the game on a down-to-down basis, as expected, and lost by giving the ball away. But there was nothing remotely flukey or dismissible about Oregon State's slashing consistency: USC didn't turn the ball over until late in the fourth quarter and was physically manhandled throughout the first half. A 5-foot 6-inch true freshman isn't supposed to make it out of the Trojans defense alive; Rodgers ran 36 times for 186 yards. The Beavers -- the same rodents that lost to Stanford and rolled over from the opening gun at Penn State -- controlled the ball for more than 38 minutes, converted more than half their third downs (to USC's 20 percent), allowed all of three first downs in the first half and made the USC offense one-dimensional from the first snap of the game. All ye praises be unto Mike Riley, because his team looked irredeemably terrible through its first three games, up until it convincingly outplayed the No. 1 team in the country.
That's a black swan of nearly Stanford-level magnitude, but USC can't keep getting passes for games like this. Three years in a row it's dropped out of the top two or three in the polls with a shocking, inexcusable loss to a vastly inferior outfit, with the same set of problems: inconsistency at quarterback, a sketchy, makeshift running game and no go-to playmakers anywhere on an offense ostensibly overflowing with them. The Trojans will be back, they'll probably still carry the Pac-10, and by the end of the year they'll be lined up for another Rose Bowl massacre with talking heads braying about the team "playing the best football in the country right now." We'll continue to be awed by their talent against other elite teams.
But if Ohio State deserves to be ridiculed and scorned and run out the mythical championship picture on a rail for its primetime, big game failures, when are we going to hold USC accountable for repeatedly losing the little one?
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Photo of Jacquizz Rodgers via Getty Images.