And so it comes down to this.
As the regular college football season winds down and the playoffs gear up, #7 Stanford at #24 USC will battle it out for the second time this season to claim the Pac-12 title.
In their first meeting this season, the then-ranked #6 Trojans fell to the then-unranked Cardinal in an upsetting 41-31 loss. Stanford carried the momentum of that upset forward, as they went on to beat every team they played until a surprising 38-36 loss to the Oregon Ducks – their second surprise this season after losing their opener to Northwestern 16-6.
The Trojans, on the other hand, went the other way after Stanford handed them their first loss of the season, losing to Washington (17-12), Notre Dame (31-41), and Oregon (28-48). After losing 2 of their first 3 conference games, coach Steve Sarkisian was fired, bringing another hurdle for the Trojans to jump. Clay Helton was named the interim head coach, which turned the season around despite losing to Oregon. After securing their spot in the Pac-12 championship game by pummeling UCLA 40-21 last week, Helton was announced as the permanent head coach, eliminating any unrest (if there was any) in USC’s future.
The Trojans (8-4) lead the Pac-12 South, even over Utah, which has the same conference record of 6-3 but is 9-3 overall. Stanford is their last opponent and it’s easy to assume they’ll be out for blood.
If USC defeats Stanford, they will go to the Rose Bowl, which ain’t too shabby; however, if they lose, they will likely find themselves in the Foster Farms Bowl for the second year in a row or maybe, maybe the Holiday Bowl.
If the Cardinal takes down the Trojans, there is a small chance (but a chance nonetheless) to make the playoffs: a win over USC would vault them past the loser of the Big 10 title game between #4 Iowa and #5 Michigan State, and hopefully past #6 Ohio State, who didn’t even make it to the title game while Stanford won. So, the Cardinal needs #18 Florida to take out #2 Alabama in the SEC championship game or #10 North Carolina to upset #1 Clemson in the ACC title game. Both scenarios are unlikely but totally possible.
Other games on Sling TV this weekend: (All times Eastern)
Bowling Green vs Northern Illinois, 8pm, ESPN2
Southern Mississippi at Western Kentucky, 12pm, ESPN2
Texas at #12 Baylor, 12pm, ESPN
Air Force at San Diego State, 7:30pm, ESPN2
#20 USC vs #7 Stanford, 7:45pm, ESPN