If you remember the Preseason AP Poll, voters were in-love with the USC Trojans. With Matt Barkley and Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and the overall 16 returning starters on offense and defense. Well, like most preseason number one teams, the Trojans are now with three losses, hoping that they might reach the Pac-12 title game somehow.
Where did it all go wrong for USC? Defense, and depth. Week 3 and their title dreams were over, losing to Stanford 14-21 and showing everyone that A) Their offense can be stopped and B) Their defense isn’t the stuff of fairy tales. The next few weeks have been about winning against teams with losing records, but once the tougher tests stood in-front of them, they caved once more.
First against Arizona, losing 39-36, showing that there are offenses that can keep up with them and their defense can’t get stops even against mediocre programs. This weekend against Oregon was simply a blowup of that version. More points, more yards, same problems. Facing an offense that can actually keep up and be better than theirs while not being able to get a single stop.
The Trojans are the fourth team in the last five years to pick up at least three losses after getting the AP’s number one label in the preseason poll.
In 2008, the Georgia Bulldogs were supposed to run away with the SEC after finishing #2 in 2007, destroying Hawai’i in the Suger Bowl and beating the exiting national champions Florida, finishing the season with seven straight wins, four against ranked teams. But a loss to Alabama in September and getting destroyed by Florida a month later closed all hopes of national titles. They also lost to Georgia Tech, and had to settle for the Capital One Bowl.
In 2010, Alabama were the returning national champions, with 21 starters coming back from 2009 on both offense and defense. But Mark Ingram got injured, and after a very good start, with five consecutive wins, including vs Penn State, Arkansas and Florida, the Tide fell against South Carolina, and three weeks later at LSU. They also lost their rivalry game to Auburn in a memorable 27-28 Iron Bowl, not managing to stop the undefeated Tigers. They settled for the Capital One Bowl as well.
And the Sooners from 2011. Oklahoma are always loved in the preseason, and their strong finish in 2010, which included winning the Big 12 title game and beating UConn in the Fiesta Bowl helped create a lot of expectations for 2011. The season went swimmingly, including beating Texas 55-17 for the first six games, but then came the usual stumble in Lubbock against Texas Tech. Three weeks later it was a shocking loss to RG3 and Baylor. The worst was the loss to Oklahoma State in the Bedlam series after 8 consecutive wins. They settled for the Insight Bowl, beating Iowa.