They fell one by one as wide-eyed
Meanwhile, as the clock ticked past 2 a.m. ET last Saturday -- well beyond the witching hour -- USC finished devouring the Oregon Ducks, 35-10. And college football fans across the land, whether bleary-eyed but awake with remote controls in hand or suffering through a restless, haunted sleep, surely could hear a voice not unlike the little girl's from "Poltergeist."
"They're baaaaaack!" That would be the Men of Troy, owners of a pair of national titles, a runner-up finish last season, four consecutive top-five finishes and 56-5 record since 2002.
USC has remained in the AP Top 10 for 55 consecutive weeks, but the Trojans, despite losing an unparalleled collection of skill players to the NFL and starting just four seniors, don't want to be just costars in 2006. They still want to direct. That's why folks outside Southern California, many suffering Cardinal & Gold exhaustion, rejoiced when the Trojans were sacked 33-31 at
Assuming the standings' mysterious formula doesn't spit out an Ohio State-Michigan rematch for the Jan. 8 title game in Glendale, Ariz., the Trojans now have the inside track to earn one of the two coveted spots, in large part because their home stretch -- Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA -- is the most demanding among contending teams. Coach Pete Carroll is an evangelist of living in the moment, of not looking ahead, of not worrying about the BCS. He often claims not to fully understand the system.
But his players do, though they entertain the subject of competing for another national title with some reluctance at this juncture. Still, with a late kickoff last Saturday, and little to do but watch games on TV, they couldn't help but recognize what was happening. "We did a little bit -- it was somewhat uplifting," receiver Steve Smith said. "It gave us a little more inspiration to go out there and take care of business." And what did he watch? "I was watching the
"They know what's on the line," coach Jeff Tedford said. "Playing this game, it's not something you need to motivate your players to do. It's more the other way around, where you've got to try and back off and keep them a little bit loose." It's a bit of a role reversal that
The Bears feature playmakers such as tailback Marshawn Lynch and DeSean Jackson, while the Trojans are superior on both sides of the line of scrimmage.