Does USC football deserve a passing grade for the 2020 season after finishing 5-1 but managing to disappoint in the end?
Is a B too generous? Too harsh?
That's the grade given to the Trojans by Paul Myerberg of USA Today when he set out to rate every college football team for 2020.
What grade does USC football warrant for 2020?
If you're a national observer, the B seems fair. USC lost just one game after all. They failed to win the Pac-12, which docks them a grade. Otherwise, it's all fine, especially during a pandemic-impacted season.
If you're a USC fan, you likely think a bit differently.
The Trojans squeaked their way to 5-0 before laying an egg in the Pac-12 title game against an Oregon team that didn't even win the North. It was an embarrassing end to a season that sat on a knife's edge from the start.
Narrow victories over ASU and Arizona weren't overly impressive unless you count being awed by USC's ability to wait until the last two minutes to take the idea of winning seriously. A comeback win over UCLA was admirable so long as you put the Bruins' losing record aside.
Unfortunately, the Trojans' failure against Oregon was a glob of hot garbage thrown atop what had seemed a perfectly edible ice cream sundae. There's just no way to salvage what was underneath.
The Ducks exposed the most vulnerable parts of USC's 2020 squad. They rattled Kedon Slovis. Their subpar run defense shut USC down on the ground. Their offense took advantage of too many mistakes on defense.
USC can point to mitigating circumstances all they want, but the problems were too familiar to be passed off on short rest or depth.
The season wasn't an F. Being able to win games tough is a skill many a team has struggled to master. Those five wins still count.
At the same time, a B implies a positive outcome. That's not what the 2020 season was.
Is a C a cop-out? Once again, USC was medium. Not bad, but not good. So sure, they got a "passing" grade but everyone knows they're better than that.