The day started out the way I wrote it up. Arrogant Nation showed up and made not only a great collection of my signs for College GameDay, but a great collection in general.
But let’s just set the stage.
The sanctions cup has boiled over. After the Miami non-ruling, after the lack of responses from the NCAA on how Paul Dee was allowed to oversee our committee on infractions and after our team has been playing with basically half a deck for this injured season, even the most Trojan faithful had to be wondering when we’d stop being the punching bag for a broken system.
I mean, the Paterno family threatens to sue the NCAA and despite all the, you know, child rape, they get their penalty reduced. Because The U has a former Clinton staffer for a president who called the NCAA out for botching their investigation and threatening suit, the NCAA tried to convince us that their “self sanctioning” made it work. It’s been bullshit case after bullshit case and because we didn’t kiss the ring, the one thing the army we were named after refused to do, we got called “arrogant” and pushed without the evidence to support anything more than the wristslap failure to monitor that Oregon got. But we got the hammer.
And here we were coming into this game on a 4-1 run after our coach gets fired on the freaking tarmac at LAX after a road loss. Here we are with ESPN coming to the Coliseum like they do every year no matter what, hosting a Stanford team that despite the “what’s your deal” game, has been beating us in CLOSE, CLOSE games to the point that you wondered if it was a curse.
I gave an interview to the Stanford Daily about all of this. There’s this illusion that there is parity in the Pac 12 right now because USC is not winning the conference every year. There’s parity because the “1″ in the Pac 1 is literally playing with half a team. And for all of that, no losing seasons. What is Cal’s excuse? What will UCLA’s excuse be when their brand positioning as a basketball school comes back and they fade into mid-conference mediocrity. Not this year, but deep in Bruin hearts they kind of know it’s coming. Even when they deny it.
I work in strategy. Positioning. In the country’s mind, USC is the only west coast football power and right now, they are clawing their way out of a dungeon.
Positioning. USC has a lifetime over .700 winning percentage. 32-16 record in bowls. It hit me that in the decade INCLUDING OUR BOWL BAN we went to 7 BCS bowls, won 6 of them and 2 national titles.
The issue with there being a second power in the Pac 1 is that no one else has broken the glass ceiling. Stanford has won a couple BCS games. Oregon has won a couple, but lost the big one that would have made a point. They are schools with losing bowl records. It’s easy to see them falling into the middle again. Or maybe not. There’s been nothing to prove either way.
Look. It was really contested with Cal for a while and then it turned into 9 years or whatever of us beating them. Stanford had us for a little bit. So did WSU for a while. They won this year. Anyone think that’s going to be sustainable?
It’s always only ever been us and unlike every team in the conference who has made a run, or had a great era or even couple years of being the bad boys, we’ve done it in every decade to every team. If any of these teams made a run against us, they have to go undefeated for a long, long time to even the gap.
Here’s our record against the rest of the Pac 1.
59-29-3 against Stanford.
38-19-2 against Oregon.
46-29-7 against UCLA.
66-30-5 against Cal.
51-28-4 against Washington.
57-8-4 against WSU.
59-11-4 against OSU.
29-8 against Arizona.
19-11 against ASU.
Hell, ASU is actually the closest thing to an on-field rival we have. They could win 9 in a row and tie the series. That’s crazy.
And since there are likely USC haters reading this who will point out eras they perceived we were awful in, let me bring up one stat I’d love for you to compare to your own school: USC has won a Rose Bowl in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s. We just recently became eligible to play for them again, but it’s worth mentioning we would have played Oregon in the 2011 Pac 12 Championship for a spot in a year where we had already beaten them on the road.
The point is, you wouldn’t bet your pink slip or even 100 dollars that USC is done winning Rose Bowls, National Titles, putting more players in the NFL than anyone else. You wouldn’t just like I wouldn’t bet 100 dollars USC is making the Final Four any time soon (as much fun as that’d be with Dunk City).
Oregon has won 2 Rose Bowls. We have won 4 in the last 10 years and we were banned from playing in them two of those years. USC has had several 5-7 year runs across the history of the sport in which they have equalled the entire trophy cases of many of their “rivals.”
We’re the Yankees, coming with all that victory, baggage and hatred from the rest of the world and in this case, the NCAA itself.
And that brings us to Saturday.
Underdogs, a rare thing in a conference game, even during sanctions. Playing shorthanded. Getting calls like THIS made against you:
Literally, referees unable to read the chains.
And they take their punches in front of a full house of recruits and beat back another Pac 12 team’s chance at a National Title. There is really only one team in this conference that has consistently been able to win the big one and they came into the game unranked.
It made me think of how often USC gets called out for losing the big game. The OSU games. The awful Booty UCLA loss. It happens a lot because we are constantly in the big game. The gravity of USC potentially winning 11 games this season, with this few scholarship players, is so insane they should cue up the 30 for 30 crew. Alabama didn’t survive these sanctions. They had to rebuild.
No losing seasons.
We were named for an army that fought to the death and died. The idea of this school was remaining dangerous even when being beheaded. That’s what Saturday was. It was a reminder that even starved, caged and beaten to death, we can still land a kill shot.
I am so against us rushed the field. I shook my head as we did, but I was smiling because if there was ever a time to do it, it was then. Not because we beat Stanford. It wasn’t because of that. It wasn’t because we beat a highly ranked team.
It was a celebration because it guaranteed that we beat the NCAA. Make no mistake about it. They tried to kill us. Nothing would shown we were hurting like inviting ESPN to the game and having our asses handed to us by a deeper, bigger team that is laying claim to a conference they have no claim on. Wouldn’t have mattered that we never had a losing record during sanctions (what was WSU’s excuse?). All that would have mattered was a triumphant 66-7 Stanford drubbing in front of the whole country.
But it was Hector’s day. Not Achilles. It was a hero maker day, not because beating Stanford meant so much, but because we told the country “wait til we’re at full strength.”
Everyone knows it now. It was a psychological victory for us, which is rare because we’re always psychologically winning. Hell, we’re myopic fundamentalists about winning. You can never shut a Trojan up with a loss because the Trojan mind (and history) will tell you your win, your five wins, were anomalies. We will win the lifetime series. When future generations get interested in football and Google the Pac 12, they will realize it’s the Pac 1 until someone strings together a couple epic decades and says otherwise.
I am against rushing the field, but to scream FUCK YOU to the NCAA on national television, the Bearfighter will allow it.
Here’s to a monday that feels the way it should.