USC vs. SEC: Time to settle this once and for all Print
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Sunday, 14 September 2008 11:58
NCAAF Headline News

 The big game is a huge letdown, unless you're a Southern California fan - or enjoy public floggings. A futbol game breaks out in the SEC. Buffalo and Temple play a thriller, really. And scratch one potential BCS buster off the list.
Week 3 of the college football season left a coach on crutches, the Pac-10 (minus USC) humbled and the road to the national title game pretty well mapped out.
The Big Story
USC is on its way.
No need to go over the gory details of the Trojans' 35-3 pounding of Ohio State, but suffice to say it will take an immense upset to keep USC out of the national title game.
Sure, USC lost two conferences games each of the last two seasons, including that perplexing one to Stanford. And, yes, 2007 showed the college football world there are no sure things.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. Three weeks into the season, the race for the national championship already has a clear favorite, and only a handful of other contenders need to be taken seriously.
Mark it down: USC will be in Miami for the BCS national title game.
team might be the best of coach Pete Carroll's amazing run. Mark Sanchez is the Trojans' most talented quarterback since Carson Palmer. They're about five deep at running back and wide receiver. The defense might have the two best linebackers in the country in Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing.
And who's going to beat USC? Check out the Pac-10 results from Saturday. Seven Pac-10 teams lost.
So the rest of the season comes down to determining an opponent for USC in the national title game. Forget any Big East or Atlantic Coast Conference teams. The Big Ten? Sorry, Wisconsin.
Either the Big 12 champion or SEC champion will play USC for the national championship on Jan. 8 - and here's hoping it's an SEC team.
No offense to the Big 12 folks, but this USC-SEC thing has been simmering for a while. In 2003, USC and LSU never got a crack at each other. In 2004, Auburn got passed over and USC was left to pummel Oklahoma. There was talk of a USC-Georgia Rose Bowl last season, but it didn't happen.
Despite all USC has done during its six-plus seasons as college football's 1,000-pound gorilla, SEC fans still look with skepticism at the Trojans because they've never played the SEC champions.
It's time to get this settled.
BCS Busters
Still going:
Mountain West Conference.
-East Carolina 28, Tulane 24. Pirates coach Skip Holtz warned anybody who would listen that getting his team focused after two emotional victories would be a challenge.
-Wisconsin 13, Fresno State 10. Memo to Bulldogs coach Pat Hill: While playing anyone, anywhere at any time is commendable, and makes for a catchy slogan, it's not necessarily the way to get into the BCS. Just ask Hawaii, which spent most of last season playing no one at home and got rewarded with a big check from the Sugar Bowl.
Knock it Down
Of course, Temple doesn't know how to defend the last-second desperation pass into the end zone. How often have the Owls had to protect a late lead?
Buffalo's Drew Wily heaved the pass and Naaman Roosevelt went above a group of Temple defenders, all seemingly stuck to the ground, for a 35-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bulls a 30-28 victory on the last play of the game.
It was the play of the day, but it's also worth noting these once-laughable programs are making progress as members of the Mid-American Conference under coaches who could be in line for more lucrative jobs soon.
Buffalo is 2-1 under coach Turner Gill, who got a look from Nebraska, his old school, after going 5-7 with the Bulls last year. Temple's Al Golden was among UCLA's coaching candidates after winning four games last season.
Heisman Worthy
Maclin, Missouri. His quarterback, Chase Daniel, was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, but no player in the country is more spectacular to watch than Maclin. The do-it-all receiver had six catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers' 69-17 victory over Nevada.
Return to Mediocrity
At 2-0, there's little doubt Notre Dame will zoom past the three victories it had last season. The Fighting Irish's 35-17 victory was as much about Michigan's generosity - six turnovers! - as Notre Dame's improvement, but this is no time to bash the Golden Domers and coach Charlie Weis, who will be hobbling around with a knee injury for a while after getting undercut on the sideline by a Michigan player.
Up next for Notre Dame is a road trip to improving Michigan State.
No Offense
Auburn and Mississippi State made SEC history Saturday night in Starkville, Miss., and here's hoping no one ever has to go through an experience like that again.
The Tigers beat the Bulldogs by a soccer-like 3-2 score. It was the first 3-2 game in SEC history, according to the league.
It's the first of several huge weekends in the SEC with LSU going to Auburn and Florida playing at Tennessee.
The two Tigers of the SEC West have created quite a rivalry in recent seasons. They've split the last four meetings with a combined victory margin of 14 points.
o come by on the Plains for both teams. Auburn's spread offense is still sputtering, see above; LSU's hasn't worked out its passing game.
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. He can be reached at

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