USC was done. Stick a fork in them. Coffin’s nailed shut. Whatever cliché or maxim you’d like to use for the end of a football season, and by extension the College Football Playoff, it would fit for the Trojans on the evening of Oct. 21.
That was the night that Notre Dame blasted them 49-14. It was USC’s second loss in four games. Meanwhile, Georgia and Alabama were undefeated and at opposite ends of the SEC. The Irish hadn’t lost. Oklahoma was setting fire to the Big 12. Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State only had 1 loss among them. The ACC boasted Clemson and Miami.
How in the world could USC possibly make the College Football Playoff?
It couldn’t. Or so the thinking went. And then college football happened.
The Trojans have since reeled off 3 consecutive wins, each more convincing than the next. In the SEC, Georgia was walloped by Auburn. Penn State lost two straight. The Irish were eviscerated by Miami. Ohio State was pounded by Iowa.
A door — a small door, but a door nonetheless — has been opened for the Trojans to sneak into the playoff. The scenarios that could play out during the next few weeks, during the final Saturday of the college football season and the conference championships to follow, are myriad. As the last few weeks have shown, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.
USC has a chance. Or, at the least, it thinks it does.
“I think it’s looking pretty good,” running back Ronald Jones said after the Saturday win against Colorado. “I feel like we can sneak back in there.”
USC must focus on doing something it has not done since 2008: win a Pac-12 championship. Should the Trojans defeat whomever comes out of the Pac-12 North — Stanford, Washington State or Washington — it is then left up to the playoff committee to ponder.
“I think we’ve got to look forward to UCLA and the Pac-12 championship, and that’s all we can take care of,” linebacker Cameron Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “Whatever happens after that — it’s everyone’s dream to play in a playoff. But we’re living in the now.”