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November 25, 2008

Trojan players want playoff system

For two mornings each March the last few years, USC freshman defensive tackle Armond Armstead scrambled around the halls of Pleasant Grove High School in Northern California, searching for any sign of basketball.

He'd check the projector in the gymnasium or duck into an office trying to find the latest scores.

Armstead has a bad case of March Madness, and like many Trojan players, he'd love to see the same kind of thing happen at the end of the collegiate football season.

"It's the best time of the year. In high school, we'd have it on in the gym all day. We'd sneak into the coaches' offices to check on the scores," he said. "March was the most exciting time of the year for me. It's teams going out with everything to prove.

"A playoff would be just like college basketball, but man, it'd be football. It'd just be ridiculous."

As the college football season enters its home stretch, playoff discussions become inevitable. This year, President-Elect Barack Obama has stated on multiple platforms that he'd like to see the college football season end with a playoff.

USC head coach Pete Carroll, an Obama supporter, said Tuesday that he's enjoyed watching Obama talk about a playoff system in college football.

"For him to latch onto that, I think, is a sign that he's in touch with stuff. He's in touch with the people," Carroll said. "I think that if you took a vote across the country, there's no way that vote would come out 'let's vote for the BCS.' They're going to vote for a playoff system.

"(He's) a person that seems to have obviously recognized, speaking for the people of this country, (and) has just picked another issue that's topical, kind of interesting, fun and all of that."

Obama's support has made Armstead more optimistic a playoff will occur at some time, but because of sponsorships and television contracts, he said he didn't think one would happen during his career.

"I thought it was tight how he said he wanted to have a playoff in college football," Armstead said. "If our leader wants it, I don't see why we shouldn't have one."

Assuming there was an eight-team playoff using the current BCS standings for seeding, USC would be facing Florida in the first round. Then, if the Trojans won, they'd play the winner of Alabama-Penn State, then facing Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Utah in the finals.

But, could USC even win? Carroll thinks so. Just like in the NCAA basketball tournament, Carroll said leadership and tough defending would be the keys to sustaining a title run.

"You'd have to have good quarterbacking, and you'd have to play very steady on defense," Carroll said. "It'd be very similar."

Sports Illustrated senior writer Austin Murphy said he thought defensive superiority would be crucial for any team forced to win three-straight games against such high caliber opponents.

Murphy also thought the first-round match up between USC and Florida would be the best game in the given scenario.

"It's really a question of depth and defense, which points to Troy," Murphy said. "Florida's offense is better than its defense, and this format would favor teams with stronger defenses."

Whoever the Trojans faced, it'd be a hellacious three-game stretch.

"It'd be a lot of great teams all playing great football," cornerback Cary Harris said. "They all have different kinds of offenses, different spreads that like to attack the secondary. It would be a different kind of preparation than we're used to.

"It would be good games, and the fans would really love that. It would really be tough, but you'd find out who the true champion really is."

For Harris, a senior, a playoff is just one of those pretty hypotheticals, something he'll never need to worry about in his collegiate career.

"It's tough to decide who should be at the top with a lot of one-loss teams," Harris said. "I guess strength of schedule and stuff like that has to decide it for now until there's a playoff.

"It doesn't really matter to me. We should just win our games. We shouldn't have lost to Oregon State. Then, there wouldn't be anything to say. "


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