Bless you, USC and Ohio State. Same to you, Georgia and Arizona State.
Thanks to these schools' willingness to challenge themselves out of conference, we will be able to start reducing much of the guesswork in the top 10 these next couple of weeks. Early SEC clashes between LSU and Auburn and Florida and Tennessee (both Sept. 20) will help as well. By the time the Oct. 11 Oklahoma-Texas game gets here, we should have a fairly comprehensive lay of the land.
But first thing's first: Ohio State-USC. A Trojans victory will further solidify their claim to the top spot and will presumably stay that way for as long as they keep winning. A Buckeyes victory should vault them to No. 1 as well. I don't know whether my fellow pollsters feel the same way -- especially after dropping Ohio State to fifth this week -- but it seems like a no-brainer to me. USC has lost one game at the Coliseum in the past six years. Pull that off and you deserve a medal.
The more vexing question is what will happen to Ohio State if it suffers another humiliating rout on the national stage. I've been among the many who've resisted holding OSU's past two BCS-title blowouts against this year's team -- but my patience only runs so thick. There would be no shame in losing a close game at USC, but if the Buckeyes aren't competitive, count on a pretty drastic poll drop.
NCAA Football Power Rankings