When you are accustomed to watching USC win Pac-10 championships and Rose Bowls, anything short of that is a disappointment. By those lofty standards, the 2009 season was a disappointment (and hopefully just a down year). When talking about an upcoming season for the USC Trojans, you will hear the words “Rose Bowl” and “National Championship” along with it. It is a sign of where USC football is and where it expects to be. That alone tells you that in the college football world, the high standards at USC are the exception, not the rule.
Consider this: a down year for Notre Dame and Michigan is finishing 3-9. A down year for Pete Carroll’s USC is finishing 9-4 and comfortably in the Top 25. If finishing 9-4 and remaining in the Top 25 is a down year for USC, I’ll take it!
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. To translate that, one bad season for USC is another team’s dream season. This year the Temple Owls had their best season in 30 years. Guess what their record was? 9-4. Illinois had their miracle season in 2007 when they made it to the Rose Bowl (and was blown out by USC 49-17). Their record was also 9-4. And there are plenty of other teams, too many to count, who wish they finished 9-4.
Yes there are moments USC fans would like to forget from the 2009 season, but the season as a whole was not a disappointment. To lose 21 players to the NFL, 7 of whom were first 1st-round picks in the NFL draft, over the course of 2 years and still finish with a 9-4 record is impressive. Beating Notre Dame and UCLA automatically makes it a good season, that is, if you subscribe to the notion that finishing 2-10 with wins over Notre Dame and UCLA is better than finishing 10-2 with losses to Notre Dame and UCLA. On top of that, USC won on the road at Ohio State, the Big Ten Champions and Rose Bowl Champions. They also beat 4 teams ranked in the Top 25 at some point during the season.
Winning the Emerald Bowl against Boston College is also something to be proud of. Granted, the Emerald Bowl is not as prestigious as the Rose Bowl, but at least they won their bowl game. That in itself is noteworthy. Why is it noteworthy, you might ask? This is Pete Carroll’s first non-BCS bowl win in his tenure as head coach. This also marks USC’s first non-BCS bowl victory since the 1994 season when the Trojans demolished Texas Tech 55-14 in the Cotton Bowl. Technically that ends a 15-year “drought” of not winning a non-BCS bowl game. Between 1995 and 2008, USC had only played in 2 non-BCS bowls, both resulting in losses. In 1998, they lost to TCU 28-19 in the Sun Bowl and then in 2001, they lost to Utah 10-6 in the Las Vegas Bowl. In 2009, that “losing streak” ended with a 24-13 win over Boston College in the Emerald Bowl. And they did all of this with a true freshman quarterback in Matt Barkley.