USC Football: What If There Had Been a Playoff All Along?


“Hypothetically, what if the College Football Playoff had been in place all along?”

That’s what Aaron Brenner of Charlotte, South Carolina’s The Post and Courier asked and attempted to answer in a feature Wednesday.

Which got us thinking, “Seriously, what if…”

Might the 1968 team have brought home a second straight title? What about ’76 and ’79?

Brenner has those teams in with a shot at glory among the top four teams in the nation.

While it is nice to see the 2002 Pac-10 champions in the playoff picture, the exclusion of the 07′ and ’08 Trojans is a major oversight.

Of course, his hypothetical also takes USC’s claimed national titles in ’39, ’62, ’67, ’72, ’78, ’03, and ’04 and throws them to the mercy of the playoff, decided on the field instead of in the polls.

As for the ’74 Trojans, featuring Anthony Davis and one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college football, they wouldn’t have even gotten a shot at the title in this historical rewrite despite finishing the season sitting second in the AP and first in the UPI, which awarded them with the national title.

That’s where our disagreements begin, but they certainly don’t end.

While it is nice to see the 2002 Pac-10 champions in the playoff picture, the exclusion of the 07′ and ’08 Trojans is a major oversight.

In Brenner’s model, the 2007 playoffs feature three two-loss teams — LSU, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. With so little separating the top ten teams, USC had as good a resume as anyone for getting into the final four.

Two midseason losses, especially the upset by Stanford, hit the Trojans hard, but the extenuating circumstances in those losses certainly would have come into play for the selection committee. USC’s Heisman candidate quarterback, John David Booty, played with a broken finger in the first narrow loss and the second featured his back up, Mark Sanchez, nearly rallying the Trojans to a victory over #5 Oregon in Autzen.

On top of that, USC was no doubt one of the hottest teams in the country heading into bowl season, reeling off big victories over #24 California and #7 Arizona State on their way to the Rose Bowl.

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The ’08 team has even greater reason to scoff as being left out of this hypothetical playoff, just as they had every right to question why they should have been left out of actual championship game that year.

In the hypothetical, Brenner puts in two SEC teams and two Big-12 teams — Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas — all with one loss apiece. In fact, Florida had already beaten Alabama in the SEC title game, while Texas didn’t win their conference, Oklahoma did.

Meanwhile, USC, also a one-loss team, boasted a powerful resume. Their loss came early in September, on the road and by a narrow margin to a fairly respectable Mike Riley-coached Oregon State. The Trojans had dismantled then-#5 Ohio State at the Coliseum and dispatched the remainder of their opponents with one of the great defenses in college football history.

As with the 2007 team, would the selection committee have been able to resist the mouth-watering possibility of USC taking on any of the SEC or Big-12 powerhouses?

Of course that’s the trouble with hypotheticals. We can only guess.