Us, root for USC?
We have a hard and fast rule: We root for whoever's playing Southern Cal. Even our disdain for the Ducks doesn't allow to us to root for the Trojans when those two teams meet. But this weekend we're being urged by our friend, colleague, and fellow USC-despiser Tung Yin to pull for Southern Cal (a 5.5-point underdog) against Notre Dame.
Now, we're no fan of Notre Dame, but we're not a hard-core foe, either. And so for us to be cheering on Southern Cal would require an extraordinary showing of good cause.
Here's how Tung explains it: If Southern Cal loses, they'll surely fire their coach, and he's so ineffective that his continued tenure would actually hurt the Trojans in the long run. So we want him to stay, and if USC beats the No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish, he might.
Besides, USC is going to finish the regular season either 8-4 or 7-5, and there isn't much meaningful difference between those two records. In addition, if USC beats Notre Dame, the Cardinal win over the Trojans will look better in the computer rankings. (But then again, so will the Ducks' win over S.C.)
These arguments bring us at least to neutral, but can we really cheer for Tommy Trojan and the boys? We've got until Saturday night to figure it out.
Meanwhile, there's drama for Stanford, and part of it depends on what happens in the Oregon "civil war" game on Saturday. It's a little complicated at this point, but here's how we think it goes: If the Ducks beat the Beavers in Corvallis on Saturday, Stanford will have to beat UCLA two weeks in a row -- first in L.A. Saturday and then in the conference title game, which would be held in Palo Alto -- to make it to the Rose Bowl.
If the Beavers win, Stanford can lose to UCLA down south this week but will have to beat the Bruins in L.A. next week to make it to the Rose Bowl. If Oregon wins and Stanford loses this weekend, the Ducks will play UCLA for the conference title and the Rose Bowl bid, next week in Eugene, and Stanford is headed for something like the Tostitos Bowl.
Beavers win, Stanford wins: UCLA at Stanford for conference title
Ducks win, Stanford wins: UCLA at Stanford for conference title
Beavers win, UCLA wins: Stanford at UCLA for conference title
Ducks win, UCLA wins: UCLA at Ducks for conference title
Whew! Correct us if we got any of that wrong. Stanford at UCLA is at 3:30 our time Saturday; Stanford is a mere 2-point favorite. Ducks at Beavers is at noon; U of O is favored by 9.5 points. The conference title game will be in the evening, a week from tomorrow.
If you were UCLA, in the title game would you rather play the Ducks in Eugene, or Stanford in Palo Alto? If the answer is Stanford, and if the Ducks win the first game this Saturday, might UCLA be tempted to throw the second game?