Trojans need past to become present

first_imgHistory is on USC’s side. Recent history, that is.If anyone has learned anything from the trend of losses to inferior, unranked opponents, it’s this: One loss does not end a season. Usually.Somehow, some way, a strange brew of events over the last three years seems to give one-loss USC a shot at getting back in the national title picture.Last year was an odd case. The voters and computers and everything else determined that USC’s one loss was worse than Florida’s one loss.That is, a loss on the road on a Thursday night against a good Oregon State team after a blowout win over another BCS contender was worse than a loss at home to a good Mississippi team.Scheduling Virginia, Ohio State and Notre Dame in non-conference games apparently carries less weight than Hawaii, Miami, the Citadel and Florida State.But I digress.So, two out of the last three years, one loss didn’t end the Trojans’ season.Three years ago, the 6-0 Trojans were teetering on the edge with each passing week. They beat three straight conference opponents by an average of 6.3 points before the wheels fell off in Corvallis with a 33-31 loss to Oregon State.But that didn’t end USC’s title hopes.No, the Trojans were back in the national title picture a few weeks later, and all they had to do was beat UCLA at their place.13-9, and that was done. But it was the second loss — not the first — that did USC in.What about the next year, 2007? A 4-0 USC team falls 24-23 at home to Stanford.But with the rallying cry that one loss doesn’t decide USC’s fate, the Trojans rebound with a 20-13 victory over Arizona and a 38-0 drubbing of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., led by backup quarterback Mark Sanchez.Only after the 24-17 loss in Eugene to Oregon were USC’s national title hopes officially laid to rest.So how was this made possible? Let’s just say that ESPN’s college football motto is, “Every week can change the season.”In 2006, being ranked in the top five was a curse. Texas, LSU, Notre Dame, Auburn (twice), Florida, USC (twice), West Virginia, Louisville, Michigan and Arkansas all lost in that position.In 2007, more of the same. Appalachian State delivered the keynote address with its stunning victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor.Florida, Oklahoma (twice), West Virginia (twice), USC, Wisconsin, LSU (twice), Cal, South Florida, Boston College, Arizona State, Ohio State, Oregon, Kansas and Missouri all lost while ranked in the top five.See where this is going? This year, the Trojans have already been joined by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in the top-five-teams-that-get-upset category.Yes, the Sooners lost because quarterback Sam Bradford was injured. But the Trojans were without Matt Barkley and Taylor Mays (if you ask me, one of the more underreported reasons for losing the game) in Seattle.Injuries played a key role in 2007, when No. 2 Oregon went to Tucson in mid-November, only to see quarterback Dennis Dixon injure his knee and the Ducks’ national title hopes disappear.Injuries happen; they’re the great equalizer. They’re impossible to predict, and often devastating.That’s not to say that injuries will continue to play a significant role in this season’s title game chase, just that they might. They’ve happened before, and they can happen again.So recent history is on USC’s side. But the history being written right now? Not so much.The Trojans still have to run the gauntlet of ranked Pac-10 opponents on the road, which doesn’t even take into account the game in South Bend in a month.They have to do with inexperience at quarterback, youth on defense (although that has yet to be an issue) and problems on special teams (which is a topic for an entire story itself).So can it be done? Yes. The chips have been in place before. But will it be done? Let’s just say that a lot has to happen.Luckily for USC, a lot has happened in the past.“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit or email Grant at read more

Beat writers predict winner in Syracuse-Florida State matchup

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 17, 2016 at 10:59 pm Syracuse (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast) takes on No. 17 Florida State (7-3, 4-3) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Orange faces Dalvin Cook, who is regarded as one of the best running backs in the country. Check out how our beat writers think the matchup will unfold.Tomer Langer (4-3)GutterballFlorida State 35, Syracuse 17A month ago, this seemed like an interesting game that Syracuse, although still an underdog, would have a chance in. Florida State was coming off an incredibly unconvincing 17-6 win to Wake Forest (after a one-point victory against Miami and a stretch where it lost two of its four games), and Syracuse was coming off its best regular season win in program history with a team flying high. That all came crashing down to earth with Eric Dungey’s injury against Clemson. With him unlikely to play, it’ll be hard for SU to compete in this game that pushes them almost completely out of bowl contention.Chris Libonati (8-2)Dalvin Cook-edFlorida State 34, Syracuse 13The last time I predicted the No. 17 team in the country to beat Syracuse, the Orange upset Virginia Tech. What do I know? I do think this is a bit different, though. Zaire Franklin called Dalvin Cook the best running back in the country and I agree. Deondre Francois has been solid. I just don’t think the SU defense will suppress the Florida State offense.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJon Mettus (8-2)Early FeastFlorida State 43, Syracuse 13The No. 17 team in the country is coming to the Carrier Dome, but don’t expect fans to stream onto the field after the game like when SU topped Virginia Tech earlier this year. Syracuse is undersized, undermanned and overmatched. Dino Babers said he “hope(s)” SU can win. And that’s all it’ll be: a hope. Cook and company are just too good for a Zack Mahoney-led squad to knock off. Commentslast_img read more

How did Chelsea and Arsenal’s outcasts Mata, Jenkinson, Bendtner and Essien fare?

first_imgThe Capital One Cup is often used as an opportunity for the out-of-favour Premier League stars to force their way into a manager’s plans. Chelsea and Arsenal have their fair share of outcasts, but how did they get on in the London derby?Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal)This was his chance to impress Wenger — but sadly he was let down by a dreadful mistake.Verdict: Still second choice behind Wojciech Szczesny.Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal)Been itching for a chance to play. It came last night — but he didn’t take it. Wanted the ground to swallow him up after his awful mistake. In fairness, though, worked hard to atone for his error, but the damage was done.  Verdict: Stay in the reserves.Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal)Slotted seamlessly into central-defence like he has played all season and showed he is more than an able deputy should Per Mertesacker or Laurent Koscielny suffer injury or loss of form. Verdict: Ready for a first-team recall.Nacho Monreal (Arsenal) Found his chances restricted by Kieran Gibbs’ excellent start to the season. Nacho (right) is comfortable on the ball  but doesn’t offer as much as Gibbs in final third.Verdict: On the bench for now.Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal)His presence on the pitch merely underlines Arsenal’s lack of depth up front. Not match fit and offered nothing in attack.Verdict: Embarrassing. Stay in the reserves, if he is lucky Mark Schwarzer (Chelsea)The Australian could have saved 15 penalties and he still would not have a chance of displacing Petr Cech. A sound game from the veteran keeper, though.Verdict: Still second choice behind Cech. David Luiz (Chelsea)Sloppy in possession at times and wasn’t always on the same wavelength as his team-mates. Defensively sound but that had more to do with Bendtner’s poor display than anything else. Verdict: Didn’t do enough to oust either Gary Cahill or John Terry.Michael Essien (Chelsea)At times Essien showed the power that made him one of the most feared midfield generals in European football. Faded a little towards the end but he can still cut it at Chelsea.Verdict: Should come into contention for Chelsea’s less competitive games.Juan Mata (Chelsea) How is this man not a regular for Mourinho’s side? Oozed class on the ball last night and at the heart of some of Chelsea’s best moves — and THAT goal. Wow. Classy footballer.Verdict: Too good to be on the bench. He needs to play — or leave.last_img read more