CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Don't give USC the 10-count just yet

Here's a by-the-numbers way for the Trojans to remain in the national championship picture.

USC can get back in the national hunt only if it adopts our 10-step self-help program.

The plan does not involve blending wheat grass with beets and carrot juice or walking over hot coals. It does require some post-Andrew luck, the boys catching a few breaks and a sense of humor.

Nothing is over in college football until we say it's over.

Bluto: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

Saturday's loss at Stanford hurts, but "History for Dummies" books are filled with stories of valiant comebacks after shaky starts. Harry Truman, in his early 30s, couldn't keep a haberdashery in business.

Albert Einstein reportedly couldn't read until age 7. Winston Churchill flunked sixth grade.

All of those guys had solid second halves.

Here is the 10-pronged power-point presentation — concocted, just like the original plan for the Bowl Championship Series, on a cocktail napkin:

1. Beat California on Saturday. Nothing else matters because one more loss puts you in contention for the Holiday Bowl.

Prospects for winning: excellent. USC hasn't lost to Cal since 2003, after which the Trojans won out and claimed the Associated Press title.

2. Quit worrying about the media. We are not the problem. Block defenders getting into your backfield, not reporters from getting into your practices.

Keeping secrets in the Internet age is like eating soup with chopsticks — it's just not worth the effort.

Do not stomp out of post-practice interviews after 28 seconds. Arkansas Coach John L. Smith, a 52-0 loser to Alabama, but wouldn't start his news conference this week until everyone smiled.

3. Identify a field-goal kicker until Andre Heidari returns. You really do need one. If you are afraid to let the backup try from 30 yards, hold a tryout.

In 2008, at Texas Tech, Mike Leach saw a student win one month's free rent by making a 30-yard kick during a halftime contest. Leach sent word to have the kid, Matt Williams, come by his office. Williams ended up 30 for 30 on extra points and made two of three field-goal attempts.

4. Join the Southeastern Conference. The application date may have already lapsed, but playing in the SEC really does make a difference. The only five schools to win the BCS title with a defeat are all from the SEC: Louisiana State lost once in 2003 and twice in 2007. Florida had one-loss title runs in 2006 and 2008 and Alabama claimed last year's one-defeat crown without even winning its own division.

5. Have your star quarterback make a rousing speech. This idea worked like a charm for Florida in 2008. After a late-September home loss to Mississippi, quarterback Tim Tebow delivered what is now known in Gator lore as "The Promise" speech.

"You will never see any player in the country play as hard as I will the rest of the season," Tebow said in words now engraved on a plaque on the Florida campus. "…You will never see a team play harder than we will the rest of the season."

Florida ran the table and beat Oklahoma to win the national title.

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