1453. 1644. 1917. And now, Halloween 2009.
Like the Byzantine, Ming and Romanov empires, all good things must come to an end. Such was the case for the Trojan Dynasty that has ruled the Pac-10 since 2002.
In retrospect, it was easy to see that this was a rebuilding year for USC. It lost most of its defensive stalwarts, including an entire linebacking corps that went among the first 38 picks in the NFL draft. It lost its star quarterback, who now hot dogs it for the New York Jets. It even lost its offensive coordinator to a rival Pac-10 school.
But because it's USC, it was assumed that it'd go on like business as usual ... until Saturday night, when the Oregon Ducks formally pronounced the fin de siecle with a resounding quack.
Since Pete Carroll's arrival in 2001, the Trojans have never been on the business end of a beatdown ... until Saturday night. Oregon's 47-20 victory was by far the worst loss in the Carroll Era (they have lost by double digits just once previously, by 11 to Notre Dame in 2001). It was also the most points the Trojans have ever allowed under Carroll (and the most since 1996).
The loss to Oregon effectively ends USC's bid for a short ride to Pasadena - either for the Rose Bowl or the BCS title game. The Trojans, of course, are still very much alive for a BCS bowl bid, possibly the Fiesta, but they won't win the Pac-10 this year.
The shame is that while Oregon will go on and claim the Rose Bowl bid, it almost certainly has no chance of claiming a spot in the BCS title game, despite playing better than anyone in the country at the moment. The Ducks, after a difficult season-opening loss at Boise State, have ruled the Pac-10 the way USC used to, outscoring their five conference foes by a score of 208-58.
Meanwhile, Iowa's BCS title hopes are alive and well despite yet another shaky performance. Some voters, however, are bound to elevate the Hawkeyes on their ballots based on that deceiving 42-24 final score over Indiana.
But ask yourself this: Is there any doubt which team is better, has played better, and has played better competition? If Iowa were to meet Oregon on a neutral field next week, who would be a double-digit favorite?
It's not Iowa. And the BCS is most definitely not heaven.
Projected BCS Standings:
1. Florida, 2. Alabama, 3. Texas, 4. Iowa, 5. TCU, 6. Boise State, 7. Cincinnati, 8. Oregon, 9. LSU, 10. Penn State, 11. Georgia Tech, 12. USC, 13. Ohio State, 14. Pittsburgh, 15. Utah.