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OMG! USC is the Best Team Ever!!

You may have seen this a week or so ago.  Yes, amid all the pre-season hyperventilating about Southern Cal, our friends at SMQ annointed the Trojans as Pac-10 royalty for, uhm, forever:

The initial goal of this post was to ask whether anyone had a shot at catching USC, but that's a boring exercise on a direct path to hyperbole (the answer, of course, is a decisive no: aside from the routine three-touchdown beatings and the outrageous advantage in the crucial right hand column above, the Trojans have finished #1, #1, #2 and #4 in the AP poll in the relevant seasons and return more game experience than in any of Carroll's first six years). Southern Cal is the king and will remain the king, hail, hail, etc.

I suppose this type of horseh!t stuff is born of four years of Dorrell-led mediocrity.  And this obviously isn't lost on SMQ, who sums up his deep, unabiding respect for KD thusly:
I suppose I just have that little faith in Karl Dorrell fielding a serious challenger, born of the same doubt I had in Bob Toledo before him. Toledo's last three teams were 3-5, 4-4 and 4-4 in-conference, and Dorrell's first four are 4-4, 4-4, 6-2 and 5-4, where the 6-2 team was cumulatively outscored in those games by five touchdowns. Hey, that's UCLA.

Given how UCLA has underperformed during the last four years, I'm not surprised people don't give the Bruins much respect.  We are all too aware of the program's shortcomings, including, as SMQ puts it, the "infathomable letdowns" under Dorrell, and inconsistency amounting to "a cultural problem."

But, let's get back to the horseh!t other stuff for a while.  There's no denying Southern Cal's success of late.  But, to go beyond this recognition, and basically crown them perpetual Pac-10 champs is just short sighted and sort of silly.  Maybe SMQ was making these same kinds of statements about UCLA during its eight year domination of the rivalry game just a few short years ago, but somehow I doubt it.

Of course, we've seen his argument before.  Just ask the nearest delusional Dorrell supporter why we haven't been playing better on Saturdays.  Without sensing even a bit of irony, they'll tell you to not blame the coach: blame the players (as they are beginning to do this year by whining about our stocked wide receiver corps or our experienced backfield).

Yes, for the upteamth time, the tired old talent excuse.  The same excuse we've debunked time, after time, after time.

Sure, Sourthern Cal has obviously done very well in recruiting.  But does the data really support the conclusion that a properly coached team with UCLA's talented roster and other natural advantages isn't even in the hunt in the Pac-10?   Please.   That's nonsense.  To illustrate, here's the table from SMQ's post:

Pac Ten Since 2003
Pac 10 Win % Avg. Margin Avg. PS#*
Southern Cal .909 + 21.2 16.9
California .697 + 13.7 81.3
Oregon .606 + 2.8 76.9
UCLA .576 – 0.2 66.4
Oregon State .546 + 0.7 100.1
Arizona State .455 – 2.7 79.9
Wash. State .424 – 2.9 152.0
Arizona .273 – 10.7 77.8
Stanford .273 – 12.9 93.7
Washington .242 – 9.9 150.6

* - Starters only, according to the ratings and depth charts of Phil Steele. There are ambiguities and discrepancies in this number, and they are not significant.
- - -

A couple things are striking about this data.  

First, it's pretty clear that UCLA has had more than enough talent to bring home better than the 6 and 7 wins seasons we've seen for 3 of the past 4 years.  As we've discussed before, UCLA enjoys the second best group of talent in the Pac-10.  So, as much as some would have you believe that UCLA didn't (or doesn't) belong on the same field as Southern Cal, at least in terms of talent, that assertion is just BS.

Second, that talent, though not as gaudy as Sourthern Cal's, isn't so far back as to make the conference race, as SMQ suggests, essentially predetermined (see 13-9).  Ignoring for a second any questions about talent utilization and development, the raw incoming talent has been more than enough to get the job done.

Third, this further demonstrates how, at least based upon this one measure, UCLA has underperformed under Karl Dorrell.  As we've discussed before, you see how UCLA, the team with the second most talent, has the fourth best conference record.  Cal, on the other hand, has the 6th best talent, yet comes in with the 2nd best conference record.  Sure, a lot of things can explain that.  One of them -- a rather big one I might add -- is coaching.

Of course, many a Dorrellista were probably thrilled to read SMQ's post.  It just confirms one of their favorite excuses for KD's abysmal performance in the biggest game of the year.  And it also probably makes the shamefully stunted expectations of this crowd somehow easier to live with.

In the end, I suppose I'll try not to sweat this stuff.  It's the cost of doing business in the KD era.  And it's what you'd expect from someone, even as impressive as SMQ, who tries to cover 119 teams all at once (by the way, SMQ, though you may have just gotten the names mixed up, Chris Markey's thumb is just fine).