Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.
We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.
We're going in alphabetical order.
Most important game: at UCLA, Nov. 17
Why it's important: One of the problems of this series running into a national title contender, such as USC, is that the Trojans' schedule has been pretty well picked over by the Pac-12 Blog. For one, everyone knows what happens on Nov. 3. (Dolph Lundgren turns 55? No, Oregon visits USC!). And Kevin this morning wrote about USC's visit to Stanford after writing about USC's visit to Utah a week ago. While this series has a name that leaves little leeway -- "Most important" -- there's also something to be said for not repeating ourselves.
To me, two games of note are left to consider: The two rivalry games, UCLA and Notre Dame. Both will be big, in large part because they always are. Further, based on the Trojans' high expectations, a loss in either could ruin a national championship run.
But we're tagging UCLA as bigger for three reasons, even if it would be better for our purposes if the Bruins hosted the Trojans on the season's final weekend.
For one, this road has been crossed before. Some of you Bruins and Trojans might recall the 2006 showdown, a 13-9 UCLA victory that knocked USC out of the national title game. That probably was the high point of the Karl Dorrell Era. And it was the Bruins' only win in the series since 1998.
Second, if new UCLA coach Jim Mora bested Lane Kiffin in his first year that would send shockwaves throughout Southern California. And, oh by the way, those shockwaves could potentially reverberate in recruiting while the Bruins have 25 scholarships to give the next two years and the Trojans have just 15 (Trojans, I know backwards math gives you 18 this year, but we're trying to keep this simple).
Third, and perhaps most important, this is a conference game, unlike Notre Dame. What if USC suffers a conference loss before playing UCLA, and Utah's lone blemish is against the Trojans? That means the Utes play for the Pac-12 title with a shot at the Rose Bowl, and USC could find itself headed to the Alamo Bowl.
And that disappointment then feeds into the post-Matt Barkley, scholarship reduction era, when maintaining super-elite status won't be easy.
The fact is when your team has its sights set on the top prize in college football, as USC does in 2012, every game is important. The Trojans' margin for error is, at best, one loss. If the Bruins were to provide No. 2 -- or No. 1 for that matter -- it would be a day of celebration in Westwood and a low moment in Heritage Hall.