Regardless of how USC finishes out the year, Boston College's victory over the Trojans will go down in the record books as a W over a top-10 ranked opponent. There's no taking away from BC's accomplishment or the feeling we all had about this team following Saturday night's victory.
(I mean, no one remembers that the 2002 Notre Dame team that jumped out to an 8-0 start to the season dropped three of its last five games, including getting pounded in back-to-back losses to USC and N.C. State in the Gator Bowl to end the year 10-3). Teehee.
But how good this win truly looks at the end of the season depends not only on how BC closes out the year, but also how USC fares the rest of the way. With three games down, here's a look at how the Trojans' nine remaining opponents have done so far:
Oregon State Beavers (2-0): The Beavers have gotten off to a slow start in 2014, despite OSU's 2-0 record. Oregon State struggled with FCS Portland State in the opener, even trailing 14-13 at half before forcing five turnovers on Portland State's first six second-half drives to pull away, 29-13. Oregon State jumped out to a 38-7 lead at Hawaii in week 2, but Hawaii scored the final 23 points of the game, including 16 points in a four-minute stretch early in the fourth quarter, to make it a game. OSU hosts San Diego State this week, where the Beavers find themselves favored by 10. USC has the week off to correct mistakes from the BC game and prepare to host OSU.
Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0): The Sun Devils are off to a 3-0 start to the year and a #15 ranking, but will be without starting QB Taylor Kelly for next Thursday night's huge Pac-12 South showdown vs. 12th-ranked UCLA. Kelly has thrown for 625 yards and six touchdowns over the Sun Devils' first three games -- all wins. Kelly's status beyond next Thursday is uncertain, but if his right foot injury lingers, it could have a huge impact on the South division title chance.
at Arizona Wildcats (3-0): Like their in-state rivals, Arizona is also off to a 3-0 start, completing the non-conference portion of the schedule with wins over UNLV (58-13), @ UTSA (26-23) and Nevada (35-28). As BC fans are painfully aware, the Wildcats spread offense can put up lots of points -- averaging nearly 600 yards of total offense a game (582.7 ypg, good for 8th nationally) so far this season. It's the defense that's a little more suspect. Arizona has allowed 383.0 yards per game on D through the first three games of the season against a pretty light non-conference schedule (UA's schedule ranks 112th nationally through three weeks). These two teams met last year with USC surviving Arizona, 38-31, at the Coliseum.
Colorado Buffaloes (1-2): The Buffs are one of USC's two remaining opponents with a few losses on the early season. After falling to in-state rival Colorado State, 31-17, in the opener, Colorado survived a scare from UMass (winning 41-38), but lost to Arizona State, 38-24, in week 3. I think Colorado finally has the right coach in place after spending nearly a decade as a Big 12 then Pac-12 doormat, but CU is probably a couple years away from seriously contending in the Pac-12 South.
at Utah Utes (2-0): The Utes are 2-0 on the year but have laid waste to two marginal opponents -- FCS Idaho State (56-14) and Fresno State (59-27). The schedule gets considerably more difficult from here on out, starting with a trip to the Big House to take on Michigan. From there, the Utes are set to face five teams currently ranked in the top 25 -- @ #12 UCLA, #17 USC, @ #15 Arizona State, #2 Oregon and @ #16 Stanford. The Utes will probably come into their home game against USC with a 3-3 or 4-2 record, but the path to bowl eligibility from there gets tricky. Swing games against Oregon State, Arizona and Colorado will determine whether Utah gets back to a bowl this year.
at Washington State Cougars (1-2): With a home game against USC on November 1, it's entirely possible that the Cougars will be bowl ineligible by the time the Trojans visit Pullman. WSU's one won on the year was over FCS Portland State, 59-21, in week 3, after dropping games to Rutgers (41-38) and @ Nevada (24-13) in weeks 1 and 2. The Cougars are a reverse BC -- leading the nation in passing offense with 517 yards per game while ranking 126th (of 128th) in rushing offense with just 40 rushing yards per game (BC ranks 11th in rushing, and 121th in passing). Despite last year's 10-7 win over USC, hard to see the Cougars springing the upset once again this season.
California Golden Bears (2-0): Sonny Dykes' Bear Raid offense has been putting points on the board and is off to a 2-0 start though against a relatively light schedule. There are some winnable games over the next few -- @ Arizona, Colorado, @ Washington State, Washington -- but bowl eligibility still seems like a reach with a brutal second-half schedule that has the Bears facing five currently ranked opponents -- #12 UCLA, #2 Oregon, @ #17 USC, #16 Stanford, #21 BYU. My guess is that Cal is a bit more competitive with USC this season after losing last year's meeting 62-28 in Berkeley, but can't see the Golden Bears pulling off the upset here.
at UCLA Bruins (3-0): The Bruins may very well be the toughest out remaining on USC's schedule. After surviving scares @ Virginia (28-20), Memphis (42-35) and Texas (20-17), the Bruins have the week off before traveling to 15th-ranked Arizona State in a critical Pac-12 South meeting. If both UCLA and USC can find a way past Arizona State, this game could very well become the de facto Pac-12 South title game. UCLA won last year's meeting at the Coliseum, 35-14.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-0): The Irish are ranked in the top 10 in September after jumping out to a 3-0 start playing the 94th most difficult schedule in the country. So, probably a tad bit overrated right now, but this is still a very dangerous program. Much was made of Notre Dame's difficult schedule before the season began, but there are only really a couple tricky games left before ending the regular season in L.A. If Notre Dame can find a way past #16 Stanford and @ #15 Arizona State, the Irish could conceivably enter the game with just 1 or 2 losses.
Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon Ducks, probably (3-0): When you watch the Oregon offense rollin', it's hard to envision anyone stopping the Ducks from running right through the Pac-12 en route to the College Football Playoff. If USC gets past UCLA and Arizona State and wins the South, the Trojans are probably looking at a loss here in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Could be just the second or third loss of the season, but might also be the fourth of fifth.
Record of USC's Remaining Opponents: 23-4 (.852)
Try not to read too much into that record, as the attrition of playing other Pac-12 teams hasn't started up in earnest yet. USC should be favored in a majority of its remaining games, but there are very few gimmes for USC the rest of the way.
ESPN's FPI gives the Trojans a better than 50% chance of winning all but one game left on the schedule (at UCLA at 40.3%), but projects USC's W-L at 8.3-4.1 with a 16.0 percent chance of winning the conference.
tl;dr: we need to shift gears and root for USC from here on out, especially against Notre Dame.