Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn's late interception of USC QB Mark Sanchez led to the Beavers lone 2nd-half score, but it was enough to hold off the consensus number one. Laybourn, who appeared to be wearing an ascot (credit: originally identified by ASD confidential source Extra Medium) picked off the pass at the USC 30 and ran the ball down to the two-yard line. Oregon State scored on the next play to make the score 27-14 and following a quick USC TD drive, the Beavers recovered the onside kick and secured victory.
The original title for this post, was going to be, "Man in Ascot Deals Death Blow to USC's National Championship Hopes," but the Trojans are not done. With eight of the current top ten teams calling either the SEC or the Big XII home, there's a real possibility of all of them ending up with at least one loss. USC's schedule had already come under fire (a discussion for another day), but if all of the top teams lose, USC could be right back in the mix.
First things first, if a school from the SEC goes undefeated, they're in the big game. Same goes for any team from the Big XII. If a Big Ten school goes undefeated, they will be in, unless there are undefeated teams from both the SEC and the Big XII, in which case they'll be bridesmaids (sound familiar Penn State fans?). If any of these scenarios play out, USC will be stuck once again in a bowl they feel they're better than.
If the SEC champion has only one loss, they're in, unless the BIG conferences each feature an undefeated team. If the Big XII champion has only one loss, they will be in, if there are no undefeated teams, or the SEC champion is the only undefeated team. If either Big Ten team loses only one game, they will have to hope that every team has two losses, because none of them will get the nod over USC.
USC's best hope for another shot at the championship lies, ironically in games they've never had to play, conference championship games. If a two loss team can knock off either an undefeated team or a one loss team, USC may be able to creep back into the picture. Even if there are other one loss teams, but they do not play for the conference title (think Auburn), USC stands a chance. With USC still likely to win the conference, voters will justify that a conference winner carries more weight than a team that couldn't even win their division.
One interesting scenario that could play out, would be Ohio State running the table, and finishing with only one loss. This would assume that they would beat Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State. Three quality wins versus one for USC. As much as it pains me, there is no way the voters would put Ohio State into the National Championship. The only match-up that would appeal to me as a Buckeye fan would be a rematch with the Trojans. Would a full-time Terelle Pryor and Beanie Wells make a difference? Based on Jacquizz Rodgers performance, a good running back could go a long way (/slight case of denial).
Regardless of what happens over the next few months, the Trojans are relegated to scoreboard watching and trying to get up for each game hoping for a second chance. As it stands now, potentially the best team in the nation stands on the outside looking in, and if at the end of the year, their ring fingers remain bare, it'll be due to their inability to get excited for a game against a conference opponent on national TV, a 5'6" 180-pound freshman running back, and a man with an ascot.