Well, we're approaching that annoying part of the season where the argument that "Team X" would beat all the other national title contenders starts to crop up. Or win a playoff. Or "is playing the best football of any team right now."
I'm going to pick on USC apologists in this case, because this seems to be their favorite argument for how to backdoor the Trojans into the title game. Once they get "snubbed," we get to spend a week or so after bowl season hearing how USC would've won the whole thing if given the shot it "deserved."
From what I can tell, "The Carroll Argument" involves USC's admittedly sterling record against out-of-conference competition. This year's case in point: the Trojans' blowout win over Ohio State earlier this year. Past history also comes into play. Apparently, the way USC has blown out Oklahoma, Michigan and Illinois in bowl games in past seasons is an indication of the Trojans' deservedness this year.
The Carroll Argument reminds Homerism of strategies frequently seen in elections. Weaker candidates often try to win the electorate over by trying to "frame the debate" the way they want it. In other words, when candidates recognize their policy positions are weak or unpopular among voters, they may try to re-direct every conversation to their more favorable attributes, regardless of relevancy. In effect, they're trying to distract voters into making a decision using the framework they prefer, whether or not that framework is pertinent.
When it comes to sports, nowhere is the opinion of voters more important than it is in college football. This becomes especially important when voters are forced to choose among a host of teams with one loss (or more).
Now, USC wants voters to focus on what they've done against nonconference opponents--the juggernaut you've seen in impressive wins like the one earlier this year against the Buckeyes. That team certainly should be playing for the national championship, right?
It all sounds good, so long as you ignore the candidates' "bodies of work." The Trojans can beat up opponents in the big games all they want, it doesn't matter when you lose to mediocre--and worse--Pac-10 teams. College football is all about sustained excellence for an entire season. That's what makes it so great. Every play of every week counts. You can't take a week off against Oregon State and expect it to be ignored.
USC would be well-served to learn that in college football, once you lose, your dump starts to stink. Losses hurt. Bad. You can brag all you want about scheduling tough and stomping a team like Ohio State. But when you lose to Oregon State, you better have also beaten Florida, Texas, the Patriots, the '86 Celtics and the '27 Yankees.
Cal, Arizona State, Virginia? Not quite.
Blatant Homerism Power Poll Week Ten
1. Texas Tech
3. Penn State
6. Oklahoma State
10. Boise State