USC setting standard for football dominance
In reverse order, the three hardest things to do in sports are: (3) eating your cheese nachos at Lambeau Field before they become ice sculptures, (2) listening to Tony Siragusa mutter through an end-zone report on "A" gaps, and (1) finishing a season with a perfect record.
Perfection makes us slobber all over our TiVo remotes. Perfection turns us into "Stump The Schwab" geeks.
Last college hoops team to go undefeated? (Bob Knight's 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.) Last thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown? (Affirmed, 1978.) Last golfer to win the pro Grand Slam? (None, though Ben Hogan almost did it in 1953.) Last Manny-not-being-Manny season? (1997.) Last NFL team to finish unbeaten? (Miami Dolphins, 1972.)
Everybody is talking about the Dolphins these days. Apparently there isn't enough cushion edge on America's couch to handle the drama of the Indianapolis Colts' run at Miami's 17-0 perfect season. Tweety Bird and the fellas are 12-0, with regular season games remaining at Jacksonville, San Diego, at Seattle, and home again in the RCA Decibel Dome for the finale against Arizona. Then come the playoffs and the real quest for football immortality.
Only five teams in NFL history have started a season 12-0, so this is a huge deal, right? After all, do you have any idea how hard it is to win 12 in a row of anything? Even if the Colts finish the regular season with an unbeaten record and receive the first-round bye, they still have to win one more game to match the '72 Dolphins' victory total and two more games to earn perfection.
Think about it: 19-0. Can it be done?
"In college, it's almost impossible," says Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, whose Tigers finished 13-0 a season ago. "It's impossible in the NFL. It can't be done."
Tuberville's logic: 53-man player rosters no absolute Purina Dog Chow teams (though, the Houston Texans are close) too hard to get your team up each week too many variables (you have to catch almost every break, as well as avoid injuries).
"I don't know if that Miami record will ever happen again," Tuberville says.
I don't know either. And I don't care -- at least, not right now.
Forget about the Dolphins and Colts. If Indy beats the Jaguars, Chargers and Seahawks, then we'll talk. Until then, we ought to be naming babies, buildings and freeways after the greatest dynasty this side of Ming.
The USC Trojans.
The Colts are 12-0, and we're treating them like they've been canonized by Paul Tagliabue. I love the way the Colts play (I'd pay money just to watch Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison in pregame warm-ups), but the Colts haven't even clinched the AFC South yet. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll's USC program has won its last 34 games and is going for an unprecedented third consecutive national championship.
The Trojans haven't lost a game since Sept. 27, 2003, and it took three overtime periods at Cal to do it. Since Oct. 6, 2002, USC is 45-1. Freaks.
In those 45 victories, only five were decided by less than a touchdown.
Thirty-three of those wins were decided by 20 points or more. Colts, who?
This is Tuberville's "almost impossible" to the 10th power. The Trojans are on such a championship roll, they have their own parking space at the White House Rose Garden. The only downside to this remarkable run is having to hear the Trojan Marching Band play "Conquest" 11,000 times per game.
I haven't decided whether USC is going to beat Texas (which has its own 19-game win streak) in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl, but the smart guys in Vegas have. USC is a 6½-point fave, and deservedly so. The Trojans have their soft spots (Notre Dame and Fresno State can tell you all about them), but they also have taken every opponent's best body blow (Notre Dame and Fresno can tell you about that, too). If nothing else, you have to respect the streak, respect USC's inner resolve and respect a loaded roster that, by Jan. 4, will feature -- for the first time ever -- two Heisman Trophy-winning teammates playing in the same game. The two stiff-armers: Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.
Nothing against the '72 Dolphins -- or the '05 Colts if they win out -- but a third consecutive USC national title, a second consecutive unbeaten season and a 35-game victory streak is at least the equal, if not superior, to an NFL single-season 17-0 or 19-0 record. And if it happens, here's guessing some NFL owner tries to money-whip Carroll into returning to the pros to start his own streak there.
Tuberville is right about the NFL; there are no gimme games. Five of Green Bay's 10 losses are by three points or less. The 2-10 Jets beat NFC wild-card leader Tampa Bay. So did 2-10 San Francisco. Even the Texans are no sure out.
But USC has beaten the last 16 ranked opponents it has faced. Since the 34-game streak began, the Trojans have beaten Notre Dame, Arizona State and UCLA three times apiece, Cal twice, and Michigan, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Oregon once. They've done it despite injuries, early defections to the NFL, graduation, coaching departures and the law of averages.
So enough about the Colts, or whether the Dolphins of '72 will pop champagne corks in the next few weeks. The real question is this:
Can someone sneak some bubbly into the Trojans' locker room at the Rose Bowl?
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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