Sunday, October 07, 2007

San Jose Mercury: Stanford topples USC: What the upset means to Cal

Here is the link.

By Jon Wilner

Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at 10:06 am in Pac 10, USC, Cal, Rose Bowl. How interesting to see so many Cal fans commenting that they were rooting for Stanford last night.  And in one sense, the Cardinal did its rival a huge favor: USC’s loss means third-ranked Cal should becomes No. 2 in the polls today, behind LSU. (Cal hasn’t been that high since it was No. 1 in 1951.) But Old and Young Blues shouldn’t count on being No. 2. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ohio State, currently fourth, vault the Bears. The Buckeyes played yesterday and won impressively (at Purdue), and when there’s turmoil at the top, it’s always better to have played and won than to not have played at all.  Cal had a 55-vote lead on the Buckeyes; at the very least, that will be sliced in half. Can’t you see all those east coast and midwest voters shifting their votes from USC to OSU, and not to Cal?

Anyhow, I said Stanford did Cal a favor in one sense. But in the other sense — the larger, more important sense — Stanford’s win was bad news for the Bears. Prior to Saturday, Cal had two realistic paths to the Rose Bowl:

* Win the Pac-10 title outright, which meant (and still could mean) beating USC head-to-head.

* Finish second in the Pac-10 and be invited to the Rose Bowl as an at-large team if USC jumps into the national title game. (The Rose Bowl, I have been told, would love to have an 11-1 Cal team whose only loss was to USC.) But because of Stanford’s upset, that second path is partly blocked.  The loss to Stanford makes it much, much tougher for the Trojans to get into the BCS title game (ie: finish No. 1 or 2 in the final BCS standings). Now, USC will have to win its remaining games and hope some of the teams above it lose.

Essentially, the Trojans’ loss to Stanford makes the Nov. 10 showdown in Berkeley an absolute must-win for the Bears. Before, they could have gotten to Pasadena even with a loss to the Trojans, so long as USC went to the national title game. Now, the Berkeley winner goes to Pasadena (probably) and the loser becomes a BCS at-large candidate. It’s much more likely that the Sugar or Orange bowls would want USC to fill an at-large slot than Cal; the Fiesta might be happy to have the Bears.  (Then again, there are rules that would guarantee Cal a BCS bid even if it doesn’t win the Pac-10, but those are for weeks down the road.) So Cal needs to root for USC to win every game it plays (except Nov. 10) and for teams near the top of the rankings to lose, like Oklahoma and Ohio State.

To sum it up:

The best scenario for Cal — the one that provides a Rose Bowl safety net — is for both the Bears and the Trojans to be in the BCS title hunt when they meet in Berkeley. That way, the loser has a chance to reach Pasadena as an at-large entry. The first BCS standings will be released next weekend. Cal fans, you need USC to be in the top seven or eight.

1 comment:

benjshap said...

I think we are missing one major scenario...

What happens if USC loses another game? The pre-season #1 still plays Oregon at Autzen and Ariz St at Sun Devil Std? Cal is one game up in the standings and ahead in the rankings. If we play even the rest of the season we are set to capture a guaranteed BCS bowl. Even with a loss to USC, Cal still has a real chance at the Rose Bowl (or BCS championship game). Furthermore, if we are a one loss team and that loss comes at the hands of the our foes from the south, we will still be a candidate for one of the two at large bids. Let's just hope we don't get squeezed by another mid-major with an undefeated season (Hawaii?).

Obviously winning out is the scenario of choice for Bears everywhere.

I think the real message is anyone can win or lose in the PAC10 on any given Saturday. If there was one game that the football "experts" would have picked as a lock, I think Stanford vs USC would have been high on the list. After all, it was a 41 point spread in SC's favor. Not that I would ever root for the Cardinal, but it was nice to see the Tommy Trojan get brought down off of his high horse. I also think it is now a close race the PAC10's most arrogant jerk coach. Jimmy H and Pete C are obviously not going to dinner any time soon.

Go Bears!

- b