Handshakes and helmet stickers go out to the two schools known as USC in this week’s top 10 — we could not be more thrilled for the players and their families.
The USC at No. 3 lost the legal right to be called USC, so it will heretofore be referred to as South Carolina, “Southern Car” or “Spurrierville.”
The USC at No. 9 in the latest USA Today coaches’ poll has been known for years as the University of Southern California.
Both Southern Car and USC displayed the kind of extended-weekend grit that earns you resilience red ribbons from our blue-ribbon platitude panel.
South Carolina has reached heights never before thought possible. The football program stricken for a century by the “Chicken Curse” sits at the cusp of greatness within arm’s grasp of the national title.
This is a school that has captured one conference title in its history — and it wasn’t the SEC.
Spurrierville has won 10 straight games for the first time, and its 35-7 demolition of Georgia marked its third straight win against the Bulldogs — also a first.
“They can’t say they own us anymore,” Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier said after Saturday’s most impressive win.
The No. 3 poll ranking is South Carolina’s highest since the 1984 team celebrated being No. 2 by losing to Navy.
The “real” USC also has reason to rejoice after climbing back from a 14-0 hole at Utah to win, 38-28.
Voters like that kind of road moxie and, with three top-10 schools suffering defeat, the Trojans picked the perfect weekend to mount a comeback charge.
USC moved up three spots to No. 9 in the coaches’ poll and two spots to No. 11 in the Associated Press index.
Since the USA Today poll is the one used in the BCS standings, which debut next Sunday, this is real progress for a USC team written off as a tax loss after the Stanford loss.
USC has two remaining games against teams currently ranked in the AP top seven: Oregon and Notre Dame.
USC misses suddenly significant No. 10 Oregon State (whew) unless the teams meet for the Pac-12 title.
Can you get to the top, on Oct. 7, from No. 9?
Others making our pat-on-the-back list:
-- West Virginia. We’re not sure a team can win the national title giving up 63 points one week and 45 the next, but there is no denying the Mountaineers’ “wow” power after Saturday’s 48-45 win at Texas.
They said West Virginia couldn’t run the ball after last week, so the Mountaineers promptly ran for 192 against the Longhorns.
Geno Smith couldn’t match the 656 yards he tossed against Baylor, but he did complete 25 of 35 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns.
Smith now has 24 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
“He was an immense challenge for us to play against,” Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.
Welcome to a bullet-riddled club.
-- Notre Dame. Are there still doubters out there? The Irish pummeled Miami, 41-3, and moved to No. 7 in both polls. No player on Notre Dame’s current roster was alive when the school won its last title in 1988. NBC, as we hear it, is proud as a peacock.
-- Stanford. The first season after Andrew Luck was about to be rankings-less until the Cardinal rallied for two late touchdowns before defeating Arizona in overtime. They call this “hanging on by your tree-tips” in Palo Alto, but now the No. 17 Cardinal goes out on another limb with this week’s game at Notre Dame.
-- Oregon State. Beaver Nation has gone from 3-9 to No. 10 in what seems like a matter of minutes. Oregon State needed its No. 23-ranked scoring defense to grind out a 19-6 home win over Washington State. This 4-0 season, though, is quickly becoming otherworldly.
“We have so much potential to win every game on our schedule,” Beavers defensive end Scott Crichton said. “Once we finally play as a team, you guys are in for something great.”
Oregon State plays at Brigham Young next week before closing with six straight Pac-12 games, culminating with Oregon on Nov. 24.
-- Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs spent weeks winning big in oblivion but have finally cracked the polls this week after a 58-31 win over Nevada Las Vegas.
Louisiana Tech’s still-longshot hopes of earning an automatic BCS bid will require a marquee win this week against No. 22 Texas A&M.; It was supposed to be the opener before being rescheduled because of Hurricane Isaac.
-- Penn State. Bad karma, take a hike. Penn State’s upward mood swing continued Saturday when the Nittany Lions handed Northwestern its first loss of the season. After heartbreaking defeats to Ohio and Virginia, the Penn State players who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky have won four straight games.
If Bill O’Brien isn’t coach of the year, well, Bill Snyder or Mike Riley might be.
It is only too perfect that the two schools ineligible for this year’s watered-down Big Ten title — Ohio State and Penn State — lead the Leaders Division with 2-0 records.
Penn State’s roster was gutted over the summer after players were allowed to transfer without penalty. It got so bad that Illinois almost changed its nickname to the “Poachers.”
And here’s a reverse kick in the gut. Anthony Fera, the team’s star kicker and punter, bailed out of Happy Valley and transferred to Texas.
Saturday night, he missed a late field-goal attempt in Texas’ three-point loss to West Virginia.