Commentary: Two-loss LSU over one-loss USC at No. 5? Trojans may need help to reach CFP

USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates with teammates.
USC quarterback Caleb Williams, center, celebrates with teammates after the Trojans defeated UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC may need some help to make the College Football Playoff after all.

Despite the Trojans’ national statement victory Saturday night over rival UCLA in the Rose Bowl, the CFP committee kept them behind two-loss Louisiana State in Tuesday’s top 25 rankings.

LSU, 9-2, is No. 5, while USC, 10-1, is No. 6.


If the Tigers win out, a scenario which includes a win over No. 1 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta Dec. 3, it sure seems like they would get preference over USC, even if it beats No. 15 Notre Dame and No. 9 Oregon the next two weeks.

Simply put, a victory over the defending champion Bulldogs would be a major trump card for LSU. USC needs to handle its business and hope that Georgia takes care of the Tigers — otherwise, the Trojans will need No. 3 Texas Christian to lose one of its last two to make the CFP.

CFP committee chair Boo Corrigan, the athletic director at North Carolina State, spoke with ESPN about the decision to rank LSU ahead of USC.

After beating UCLA, USC faces another rival in Notre Dame. The Trojans need a win Saturday and in the Pac-12 title game for a possible CFP berth.

Nov. 22, 2022

“Clearly that was a dominant conversation for the last couple days,” Corrigan said. “It was over and over and over again to make sure we’re looking at this the right way. There were reasons for USC to be at five, there are reasons for LSU to be at five. [LSU’s] wins over Alabama and Mississippi carried the day over [USC’s] wins over UCLA and Oregon State. As you alluded to, the win [over UCLA] was 48-45. Some of the members of the committee want to see a little bit more from their defense, as well as the overall strength of schedule for LSU really drove the day.”

The Tigers would be the first two-loss team to make the playoff. Certainly, they will be major underdogs against Georgia.

Despite this curveball from the committee, the path is still very clear for the Trojans. If they’re able to pull out two more big wins, they’re very likely to receive their first invite to the CFP.