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January 8, 2009When Oklahoma and Florida hit the field at the Orange Bowl Thursday night, it wouldn't be wrong to assume Trojan fans will be feeling a little slighted.
After all, they'll be watching a pair of one-loss teams battle for the BCS Championship, knowing that they're every bit as deserving to have their team on the field.
And, as it turns out, USC would've been there, had it not been for one hellacious half of football on a chilly, drizzly Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore.
In front of a national television audience, USC didn't play like USC. The Beavers, led by Jacquizz Rodgers, marched up and down the field at will, scoring 21 unanswered points in the game's first 30 minutes.
That half of football, beginning with USC's first three and out, ending with a tipped ball directly into James Rodgers' hands was too much to overcome that night, as USC fell 27-21 to Oregon State.
It's impossible not to think "what if" as the college football season comes to an end in Miami.
Trojan fans have more to wrestle with than just the loss to Oregon State.
They're dealing with questions whether Florida or Oklahoma are more deserving to be playing on college football's biggest stage.
Each team has one loss, Oklahoma falling to Texas (another one-loss team on the outside looking in) and Florida losing at home to Ole Miss.
A perceived lack of difficult opponents in the Pac-10 this season, thanks in part to one solid weekend by the Mountain West, didn't do USC any favors.
However, the bowl season hushed plenty of detractors as the Pac-10 went a perfect 5-0 in bowl games.
None of this explains why USC isn't playing in Miami instead of Pasadena, and similar cases can be made for Texas and Utah.
College football coaches and the NCAA have long proclaimed that football is a vehicle for more than athletic achievement. It serves as an institution that turns boys into men and teaches young men about life.
And in yet another BCS debacle, the NCAA has achieved this goal. Life's not always fair. Life doesn't always make sense.
And sometimes, things are just what they are.
One team will be crowned national champions tonight, but almost certainly, there will be other teams like the Trojans left watching at home, wondering "what if."
Mississippi State NEWS