By Dan Wolken, USA TODAY
First came the rationalization, because that's what you do when
you're Lane Kiffin and you've ridden up the coaching ladder more on
potential than production, when your team's identity is more California
cool than Alabama steel, when the No. 2 ranking you're boasting has been
given more than earned.
Southern California came across the
country to earn style points, to gain respect and dazzle the East Coast
voters who often mock the quality of football in the Pac 12. Instead, it
left with a 42-29 victory over Syracuse that did none of the above,
adding more ambiguity to the defining question of the Trojans' season.
this truly a top-five team, a legitimate championship contender, or a
team whose lack of physicality and depth are destined to betray its bevy
"Our players did a real good job for a game that was
not real easy to play," Kiffin said. "Being on the East Coast for two
days, NFL stadium, not a whole lot of energy (in the crowd). It was kind
of a weird environment. There were a lot of reasons they could have not
performed well. This wasn't an easy situation to come play in."
And yet, it's only going to get harder.