If USC Has Outgrown the Pac-12, What Has Oregon Done?

Ryan Robertson Editorials 20 Comments

The USC Trojans are (maybe) the fourth-best team in the Pac-12 since Pete Carroll left for the NFL following the 2009 season. They have won a single conference championship, they have fired two head coaches (with a third firing likely on the way), and they have underachieved massively when it comes to turning recruiting rankings in to wins. Despite mediocre on-the-field play, Bill Plaschke stated in an interview that the Trojans had outgrown the conference.

If Plaschke thinks a team that has one major bowl win over the meaningful years of the lives of recruits has outgrown the Pac-12, what on Earth does he think of Oregon, Washington and Stanford?! All three teams have more conference championships than USC since 2009, and though Washington has exactly one major bowl win this century, they have won the conference twice and appeared in the CFB Playoff since USC was last relevant for more than a season. Stanford and Oregon have been the leaders of the conference since Carroll left. Stanford has won three major bowl games, and Oregon has won four major bowl games (including a playoff game) since Carroll left USC.

The point is, USC is a perennial contender in their division, which they have won three of the last 12 years. They are 1-2 in conference championship games. They have outgrown no part of the Pac-12. Agree?

Ryan Robertson
Yuma, Arizona
Top Photo By: UO Athletics

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Honestly speaking here I’ve never in my life read some of the most ridiculous talk and this one just adds to the list. This is 20th Century intelligence. SC is not that good anymore. Got the talent just to many ME Types of players that go there. Don’t get me wrong as a Duck fan you have to love what’s happening down there.

Another thing is we Ducks or this team has enough fire power on both sides of the ball to dominate the PAC 12. This team should be better or at least as good as the 2019 team. I also believe two important factors need to be worked out. Our OC should be able to run his own plays and two whoever the QB is it shouldn’t be to hard to score points with the O.


Some things seem bigger than they actually are.
Other things actually are bigger than they apparently seem.
USC is both those things.

For 20 years Oregon has been a relevant team on the national scene. USC has been one for 60 years.
Thanks to circumstances including SC penalties and our hiring Chip, Oregon has seemed more relevant lately. But 60 years leads to a large fan base and even mythical type memories. Large portions of the populace buy into this thinking. I bet lots of people agree with Plashke.

But I think also large portions of the populace would follow Oregon if they too wanted to go independent.
But it’s not gonna happen.
Plashke is vying for more $$ and the need for Pac12 respect. He wants what we want.

It’s not that SC has outgrown the Pac12, but that poor leadership has led to the diminishing of the Pac. His comments are meant to stir up the new leadership to react quickly and make changes. I hope they listen.

Cristobal said it best, we need to keep the main thing, the main thing.
Great football on the field and wins are what we need.
As has been stated many times on this site, we need SC and others to be relevant to help our image too (as much as it hurts to say that).


There is a generation of people (of which I am most certainly a member) who is stuck on the USC of old. These people include commenters, sportswriters, tv personalities, boosters, bowl game committee members, administrators, etc. many of whom have a financial interest in maintaining the USC image.

But, this generation is old and growing less relevant to the game as younger blood comes in. These younger people will not have this muscle memory of USC as a power.

Included in this younger group are recruits, who have no recall of the USC that us old folks have. They have to be sold on the notion that USC is, has been, and always will be, an elite program. Hence the efforts by the likes of Plaschke to convince the kids that USC is eternal.

The country has changed, football has changed, media has changed. USC now has to compete with schools nationwide for L.A. talent; they are no longer entitled to recruits who live in the area. Not every kid wakes up singing “I Love L.A.”.

No question USC is a still a force to be reckoned with. But, they are no longer a pillar of college football, despite the longing of the old guard. Maybe if they were, it would be good for the PAC, and for Oregon, but they’re now just another major program scrambling to compete.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Great post, and it reminds me that taking the mantle from USC is easier now than it has ever been in my lifetime. Grab it Mario!

Meh. Los Angeles is such a huge market that he can write anything that sucks up to them, and it will be read by thousands of people. He is telling an entitled audience what they want to hear–even if it is detached from reality.

Leaving the Pac-12 would increase USC’s woes, not alleviate them.


It’s a good point, and one that I was thinking of earlier.

A successful sports op-ed writer knows how to generate content that is thought provoking yet controversial at the same time. Not alienating your local market readers is an additional plus.

Plaschke is a successful sports writer, and clearly knows the formula! More eyes getting directed to his piece from places like FishDuck is money in the bank.

Whether the readers agree or not is not really important haha.

Santa Rosa Duck

It is a bit frightening to think that if USC could ever get back on track, they could once again dominate Southern California recruiting. The path to Oregon would certainly be more difficult for our DUCKS. I hope they stay in the conference but in this brand new age of free transfers, graduate transfers, NIL etc., they may carve out their own path.

Remember student body left and student body right with great tailbacks like OJ Simpson and Reggie Bush? Maybe I should use better examples.


I am guessing from the results that MC has already got the Ducks firmly into the mindset of recruiting nationally, which I think most successful programs will have to do from here on out.

Thinking back to the 80’s, my teenage peak of football fandom, it seemed to me Notre Dame was the only top school that really drew players from coast to coast. Probably due to success and the Catholic connection.

I think BYU, with the LDS connection, and Stanford, for academics, were similar but lesser examples.

Now, it’s becoming next to impossible to be successful without being able to recruit outside of your region. Even for schools in recruiting hotbeds.

The kids are more mobile than ever before.


Yeah an alleged Murderer and a cheater that I don’t care what people think about this one is he took money so he cheated so no Heisman. You can’t let cheaters ever win. Also to some of the other posters on here about SC. Hey they cheated and what’s to say they weren’t doing it all along. People need to win the Honest way. Another subject but what about the SEC. That conference gets away with to much.

Jon Joseph

RIP – Coach Terry Donahue – One heck of a football coach and a very nice man.


A legacy sports writer and a legacy program, sharing common delusions of grandeur and memories of a past when they were relevant.

Jon Joseph

Although, that past was not so long past.

In light of the NIL arriving on 7/1, how badly was SC screwed over by the NCAA because 1 guy took extra benefits. And the benefits were paid so he would not play at SC.

If Larry’s network had been up when Carroll had SC rolling it would have likely been up on all carriers and had far more subscribers.


Recruits and pundits will always love sc for what they were and what they could be. Some place even more passion towards the program and that is LA Times Plaschke is doing here. Maybe he is playing for even better access to the program who knows, or just to get more readers of his articles?

When he equates the trojans to the fighting Irish you know he is off his rocker. The Irish at least have a coach and a strange national brand which far exceeds it’s alumni base. Like Rudy, there is a delusional group in America who believes there is magic in the Irish program. This leads to the tv package they receive.

Sc, on the other hand, merely has delusional alumni and media who want access to the program, like Plaschke. I look at sc much like tosu, kids want to go there to be part of history. At sc that is all they are part of, the program is just history. If sc left the Pac-12 their history wouldn’t carry it too far. It would carry it about as far as all the wasted talent gets after 4 years of playing for the program.

Jon Joseph

Good points all. But not so long ago USC, love or hate the Trojans, was the most talked about team in America. It seemed like ESPN had an on campus studio.

I think it is far from delusional for SC fans and those of us who are not SC fans, to believe that SC could again rise up, as it did under Oregon men, McKay and Robinson and under Pete Carroll.

Not long ago, before Larry got the boot, the SC AD, Bohn, broached the subject of SC leaving the conference and possibly going independent?

One of the possibilities was an NBC-like Notre Dame deal where SC would be the late game on NBC. I think something like this could happen; especially, if GK cannot score a new, big time media deal. There is no other market in the Pac-12 equivalent to the LA market.

SC is an HC hire away from a return to national relevance. Think of the So Cal guys who have come north to Oregon and headed east to play ball. Are these guys leaving if Pete Carroll is at SC?

Plascke is likely, in part, throwing out click-bait. But looking at the Pac-12 conference top to bottom what teams come close to the cache of Oregon and USC?

How about none?


I would say many programs are one hire away from a return to national relevance, but just a few national dominance. I agree sc is one of those, and it will take some unique circumstances for Oregon to become one of those.

I agree with the Bohn concept of leaving when Larry was destroying the conference. Oregon should have considered that option too. Hopefully GK can lead us out of this darkness we are in.

I also applaud Charles for ringing the bell on issues with the Oregon Football Program. Oregon can reach the top, but when there are glaring weaknesses no one will talks about it won’t happen. There are two things needed, scoring and dominance. They are related, but we can’t lose to weak opponents ever again, another huge issue!

Jon Joseph

Thanks Hayward, great thoughts all.

Not to quibble, but when considering ‘return to national relevance,’ how many schools have finished #1 or tied for #1, as SC has done on multiple occasions? Clearly, no team in the Pac-12 has come close to what the Trojans have achieved. Both team-wise and individually.

Compared to its historic prowess, SC is about as down as a program can get. I see FSU in the same boat.

Michigan’s and Texas’ reputations, IMO, exceed what both have actually accomplished on the field.

Hire the right HC and SC has the potential to return to elite status, as has Bama has under Saban.

The only blue blood, elite program that has not suffered a prolonged drought is Ohio State.

Clemson finished #1 in 1981 and then went a long, long time before Dabo overcame ‘Clemsoning’ and won his first title. Clemson is an example of how 1 team can carry the water for an entire conference. Kind of like SC carried the conference not so far back in the day.

Few conferences have had two teams consistently battling for conference and national titles. Nebraska and Oklahoma back when both played in the Big 8, come to mind. Miami was in the Big East when it and FSU were both powerful.

It would be great for both the Ducks and the conference if season after season a top 10, or higher, Ducks team could play a top 10, or higher, USC, in the conference champ game.


I think we may be talking semantics.

There is relevance, the elite schools will always be relevant. Take for instance the continual preseason ranking love many elite school get. They also get it with recruits who want to be associated with past greatness, and feel they can just will a poor coach to that level.

There is then dominance. Alabama is dominant, sc use to be dominant, tosu, Clemson and LSU have been dominant. These teams are relevant and don’t lose to lesser talent. Oregon is relevant now, and needs to get to dominance, IMHO.

We have shown some gaping holes that need to get fixed before we get to dominance. Recruiting and nice uniforms are just a distraction to the real battle to build a battle tested program.

Scoring demoralizes opponents and we haven’t demoralize anyone in a while. Destroying lesser talent also unnerves opponents. If tosu destroys Minnesota before they play us it will send a message that will haunt the Ducks until the game starts. Same can be said on what we do to Fresno State.

The doubt about if you can beat someone starts well before game time. This is the other shoe that needs to be dropped on the programs who will be playing us in the future. No one truly fears the Oregon Football Program right now, maybe individual players, not the whole organization.

Jon Joseph

Spot On.

As I have mentioned before since his first season at Bama Saban has not lost to an unranked opponent.

To be elite you have to, for the most part, blow out team’s with inferior rosters.

Unfortunately we oft seen Oregon under Cris play down to the level of the competition.

Oregon has to learn to play against itself. Strive for excellence no matter the nature of the opponent.


I think you both make good points. The way things seem to have been shaping up in terms of recruiting talent, I would say that MC has got the Ducks up into the second tier of teams – particularly if things keep going as they have in the current recruiting cycle – while SC has fallen into the second tier.

When I think about recruiting, I’d put Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State as the first tier. There are probably about 8 teams in the second tier.

All of those – first and second – should be in the conversation for the playoffs every year. Of course they can’t all get there, but they have the base of talent that should allow them to get close in any case.

As Sir Charles, HaywardDuck and many others have pointed out, there are issues that need to be fixed under MC’s tenure so far, and of course we are all hoping they do get fixed. But in fairness to MC, he has produced good results so far, so I have some faith he’s going to keep that upward trajectory going. I think the jury is still out on Helton.

All of that said, I agree with Jon that SC still has enough of a national brand for media (maybe not as much for the generation of kids being recruited right now) that it probably could make an independent route profitable. I don’t see it happening unless the Pac12 really falls apart though.

A couple side notes, Oregon is showing it’s national brand on the recruiting trail. I look at 247 sports list of recruits in the 2022 class today and see 7 four-and-five stars from: Texas, Alabama, Oregon, Texas, Alabama, California, and Texas, in that order.

Who would have ever thought you’d see that, without *knock on wood* anyone paying them suitcases of cash to come to Eugene? Not me!

Other note, it seems that SC’s recruiting in California has bounced back dramatically after Donte Williams moved there, while MC has cast his net out wide into Texas and the Southeast. I wonder if it’s coincidence or strategy?

Jon Joseph

Great comment FishiceCream.

Amazing recruiting under Cris but now the rubber has to meet the road. No more Ls to underdog conference opponents.

I agree that SC will likely stick around. I do not see another P5 conference giving SC the latitude that the ACC has given Notre Dame. (And the B1G also helped by taking in ND’s ice hockey teams.)