EUGENE, Ore. -- This was their bowl, complete with no ocean, no sun and no lavish gifts. And hate, don’t forget that. Plenty of hate from a hostile crowd.
But this was USC’s bowl because they can’t go to a real one. So why not another stunner on the national landscape? Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado's 37-yard field goal missed at the gun, allowing the Trojans to hang on, 38-35.
Iowa State wasn’t ranked when it upset Oklahoma State Friday night. USC couldn’t be ranked, at least in the coaches’ poll, when it knocked off No. 4 Oregon at Autzen Stadium. The difference? Your level of shock. Suddenly, they looked like the Trojans of old. The shame of it is, this was their bowl, the high point of the season. In November. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
But they played like it was January with everything on the line. Oregon, a 16 ½-point favorite, didn’t. And so now we have even more BCS chaos.
But before we go there, let’s credit these Trojans. Officially, they have nothing to play for this season. Seventeen months ago the NCAA slapped a two-year bowl ban on the program. Unofficially, they might be the best team you won’t see in the postseason.
They were led by Matt Barkley, who could be in the NFL right now, but chose to tough it out through the bowl ban. He threw four touchdown passes. Receiver Marqise Lee is a freshman All-American if there ever was one. Sophomore Robert Woods was nicked up this week but caught two touchdown passes.
Safety T.J. McDonald has been accused of playing over the line. It was a straight line he took to block an Oregon punt in the third quarter.
The shame of it is, these current Trojans have nothing to do with the wrongdoing. The coach, AD and principal rulebreaker are gone. It’s been so long that Reggie Bush is closer to retirement than the goal line.
For Oregon, it could be emptiest division title in the short 20-year history of division titles. The Ducks needed one win in their last two to wrap up the Pac-12 North Division. Now they’ve have to get it next week against Oregon State.