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USC makes playoff statement edging UCLA as Caleb Williams’ career night suggests best yet to come

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On a career-high Saturday, Caleb Williams could have gotten his way. Maybe not his entire career, of course, but at least his career to date. From the way things are going, who knows what’s in store for the USC quarterback and the Trojans?

The Rose Bowl could also be the launching pad for a lot of stuff on Saturday night. With Williams throwing him in control and driving emotionally, USC could suddenly see a place in the college football playoffs from here. Some believe they are even in control of their own destiny when it comes to the football foursome in this dizzying, pivotal year that just won’t go away.

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But that’s what Trojans do. It took them every one of Williams’ career-best 470 yard passes (503 yards total) — more than any player in rivalry history — to defeat UCLA, 48-45.. These numbers will live in the annals of USC for years, if not decades.

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It’s more about what it means in the present. The Pac-12 is back at least at the end of the season. The last Pac-12 playoff entry was six years ago. If USC makes a deal, then in two years it will move into the Big Ten. At this point, who cares about belongings?

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For now, the Trojans have easily won a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. They can’t afford to look behind Notre Dame next Saturday. But on this journey, Williams was slightly better in a shootout with his UCLA colleague Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

This is the same DTR who said he wanted to score 60 against the Trojans. The same DTR who scored at least four points for the fifth time in his career. Instead, the fifth-year senior helped decide the outcome of the game with three bad interceptions, the last with 1:26 left. Sophomore quarterback Corey Foreman made the biggest contribution to the game his young career with choice.

“I’ll be honest: they had a lot to say this week. We blocked it,” Williams said. “They had a lot to say tonight. We blocked it.”

Basically, his teammates blocked enough. The 93 combined points were the second-highest in the series, behind last year’s 95 in a UCLA USC rout at the end of a dismal 4-8 Trojan season.

This preceded the hiring of Lincoln Riley, who 20 transfers and 40 new players during two months.

This has brought us here as we are witnessing not only one of the best turns in the country, but also one of the best of all time. USC 10-1 for the first time since 2008. Back-up running back Austin Jones ran for 120 yards, his best run in two years. Wide receiver Jordan Addison was close to a career high with the second-most receptions in a game (11 for 178 yards).

Both, of course, are transfers – Jones from Stanford and Addison from Pittsburgh.

The season is drawing to a close and we can’t get enough of it.

Have you seen TCU deliberately launch the ball with no timeouts – and running out of time – so he can show off his game-winning field goal against Baylor? Have you seen Michigan do the same, needing a 35-yard field goal in the Big House version to defeat Illinois after time runs out?

A few hours later, South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler came out and played his life. The Gamecocks made one of the biggest upsets of the season, winning Tennessee 63-38. Rattler entered the game with eight touchdown passes (nine interceptions) for the season; he walked away with 14 after scoring a career-high six against the Vols.

This helped open the door (at least a little further away) for USC to see the light coming from behind it.

It’s that trojans are everywhere wanted but could any of them expected is it that fast? Williams, a transfer from Oklahoma, found himself at the very beginning of the Heisman Trophy conversation, putting USC behind an early 14-0 deficit.

After an early interception, he led the Trojans to points on eight of the next nine discs before USC made the night’s only hit. Williams nearly matched DTR, who had three straight touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters for a total of 17 games and 215 yards.

It’s hard to believe that the winning score was reached with 9 minutes left in the game when Darwin Barlow ran 9 yards to make it 48-38. It’s harder to believe that this is all for the Trojans. USC is arguably the best one-loss team in the country right now. This is because there is only one other team in the country with one loss (Clemson). A third one-loss team is guaranteed on Saturday when Ohio State hosts Michigan in a Big Ten unbeaten battle.

Now you can see more clearly what the Sabbath meant. The loser in The Game can open a place for Trojans in CFP.

Foreman froze the game with the biggest game his career. He has already exchanged a percentage of future professional income for a cash payment in one of the the most unique offers era of the NIL. To date, his career has been somewhat disappointing when he came to Troy as a national leader. No. 1 overall.

Do you want to know what Saturday means? Foreman is now a legend in this rivalry. Do you want to know what the change of scenery meant? A year ago, Williams had the most shaky game of his young career at Bedlam. The Sooners didn’t score in the second half of that game; Oklahoma State won by four. Williams was only 6 of 18 in the second half.

On Saturday, he gave up the maximum for his career.

And the best may be yet to come.


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