USC is a university that has seen a lot of success over the years. The USC football program that has been revered by players and fans alike, boasting 11 national championships and 34 Rose Bowl victories.
Yet by some bizarre twist of fate, the Trojans have struggled in their first conference road tests on a semi-consistent basis. For the sake of time and argument, let’s look at the current era of success from the beginning of Pete Carroll’s era to today.
Carroll took over the USC program that was mostly maligned for the better part of 20 years. After starting his career with a 6-6 record int he 2001 season, Carroll would go on to lead the Trojans to a 97-13 record from 2002 until 2009. However, it was not always roses during that time frame and has been even less so since he left.
In 2001, USC lost to No. 7 Oregon in Autzen Stadium. All in all, it’s not a bad loss for the Trojans considering the new coaching regime and going up against a highly ranked Oregon team in their building. Then in 2002, USC lost at No. 17 Washington State. Once again, the Trojans lost to a tough conference opponent in their building.
Then the Carroll era hit the ground running in 2003, winning the AP national championship. The Trojans lost one game that season. You guessed it, the first Pac-10 road game of the season. USC fell to a mediocre Cal squad that would finish the season with an 8-6 record.
USC then won 34 consecutive games between their loss to Cal and their loss to Texas in the 2006 BCS title game. The Trojans were at the height of their prowess and were considered to be the measuring stick in college football.
In 2006 and 2007, USC secured victories at Arizona and at Washington, giving the Trojans four consecutive years of victories in their Pac-10 road openers.
Sep 28, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA; USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin during the game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Then, on a fateful Thursday night in 2008, the No. 1 Trojans with arguably the greatest defense ever assembled lost at Corvallis to the lowly Oregon State Beavers. It was USC’s only loss and it cost them a shot at the national championship.
In 2009, coming off a terrific road victory at Ohio State, the Trojans lost to a Steve Sarkissian-coached and unranked Washington team.
Carroll would leave before the 2010 season and was replaced by Lane Kiffin. USC would also be slapped with five years probation shortly thereafter. That year Kiffin led the Trojans to a blow out victory over the worst program in the Pac-10, Washington State. Ironically, the following week Kiffin would lose to Sarkisian and the Washington Huskies in the LA Coliseum.
Then the pattern takes an interesting turn concerning this week’s matchup at Arizona State.
In 2011, USC was blown out in Tempe to the tune of 43-22. In 2012, USC blew a 14-point lead in heartbreaking fashion at Stanford. In 2013, Arizona State completely lambasted USC 62-41. It was the most points that the Sun Devils had ever scored against USC, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Kiffin, who was fired upon arriving back in Los Angeles.
Last season, USC survived a battle with Stanford thanks to inept offensive play by the Cardinal, a game more remembered for new head coach Steve Sarkissian calling on Pat Haden’s help in dealing with officials.
Now coming off a humbling loss over Stanford in the Coliseum, USC faces a trip to Tempe, which has seen Arizona State dominate the previous two matchups. Both those losses were must-wins for USC, and this week is no different. The fact that this Sun Devil team doesn’t appear to be as strong as the previous teams really shouldn’t factor in. The Trojans have found ways to lose these games despite being more talented on paper the majority of the time.
History is not on the Trojans side.
Will USC get over the first road hump of their Pac-12 schedule? Or will they continue to struggle and lose for the third straight time in Tempe? If USC is a true contender in the Pac-12 South, let alone the Pac-12, they must win on Saturday.
Otherwise, you can stick a fork in them, as their bizarre road issues continue.
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