USC Football lost a heart-breaker to Utah on the road this past week, but it was marred with controversy. Objectively horrendous officiating kept the Trojans from putting the game away early, and from putting the game away. Read more about the officiating and the public's reaction to it here.
The poll voters likely took notice, as the AP Top 25 came out and SC was ranked 12th--three spots ahead of Utah, despite losing to them this week. Utah also is 5-2, meaning they have one more loss than the 6-1 Trojans.
Still, many would have expected the Utes to be at least one spot ahead of the Trojans, as they have the same amount of conference losses than SC and of course now have the tie-breaker over them. Perhaps the officiating played a role in how the poll voters made their selections, which is of course fair, and shows that they were intently watching the game.
The Utes only being able to pull the game out by one point, despite that officiating, could have been telling for those evaluating the two squads and putting their votes in. Again, it's not just that the Trojans were ahead. They were ahead by THREE spots. The best part is that they will likely be able to build on that lead after the bye week.
USC Football has arguably the easiest three-game stretch of the season after the bye week.
USC Football will play Arizona on the road, Cal at home, and Colorado at home after the bye week. Then they go to Pasadena to play UCLA, and come home to play Notre Dame on rivalry weekend, but the three games before that will be cupcakes compared to the two rivalry matchups. (And for what it's worth, Notre Dame could potentially be a cupcake matchup too...)
So, they've got three games to keep on gaining ground in the poll over Utah. Is the poll the only thing that matters? Absolutely not. Conference record matters, and Utah is only a half game behind USC in conference.
That being said, if SC ends up putting themselves in position for a New Year's Six Bowl bid (or possibly even a CFP bid, although that may be premature), the poll and what these voters think of this squad will most definitely matter. Therefore, it's encouraging to see SC still in the top three of the conference in the AP Poll (UCLA and Oregon are the only two teams ahead).
They'll be getting the chance to play UCLA later in the season of course, and if things go well in that game, may even get the chance to play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship. That is, if Oregon makes it of course.
As of right now, though, they are unlike SC in that they have no conference losses. Perhaps USC's conference loss wasn't such a blemish on their overall resume, though, as the AP still has USC comfortably over Utah in the poll.