- Ivan Maisel, ESPN Senior Writer
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PALO ALTO, Calif. -- It is only Sept. 15, USC. Jan. 7 in Miami is 11 games away. It is entirely possible that you Trojans will run out of the tunnel at Dolphins Stadium and play for the school's third national championship in the last decade, give or take a vacated trophy.
On that happy night in south Florida, what happened at Stanford Stadium on Saturday will be a distant memory. Only the Cardinal fans will recall how No. 21 Stanford wore down No. 2 USC diminished by scholarship penalties, injuries and the sheer physicality of the Cardinal on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
That is how the Trojans and their fans must think. They must forget the reality of their 21-14 loss before a sellout crowd of 50,360. They must tuck away the disappointment in losing a fourth straight to Stanford for the first time since the rivalry began in 1905. They must ignore the other possibility, that for all the attention paid to Matt Barkley & Co., USC only looked the part of a national championship contender.
The Trojans appeared real -- blond, good-looking quarterback, playmaking wide receivers, hype out the wazoo. This may come as a surprise to anyone outside the moviemaking capital of the world, but appearances can deceive. Hollywood's Team played Saturday night as if it had been constructed by a Hollywood set designer. Behind the façade, there wasn't a whole lot.
For Ivan Maisel's full column, click here.