The USC Trojans are in the middle of a renaissance season, as quarterback Caleb Williams and his teammates prepare for their annual confrontation with archrival UCLA.

The Trojans bring a 9-1 record into the game, and after they face the Bruins, they will face another major rival in Notre Dame.

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Bruins, the Trojans stand 7th in the College Football Playoff rankings. However, if they can beat UCLA and Notre Dame, USC should have an excellent chance of gaining a spot in the playoffs.

It has been traditionally very difficult for Pac-12 teams to get their share of playoff opportunities, but an 11-1 record by the Trojans should be good enough to get them in, based on fairness and objectivity.

Currently, the top 4 teams in the poll are Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan and TCU. Georgia appears to be a solid playoff participant, largely because of their perfect record and consistent performances. However, the Bulldogs will have to play in the SEC championship game against LSU in early December. What if Georgia loses that game? While their multitude of supporters will still say they are are good enough to compete in the playoffs, is that really fair.

Let’s move onto the annual Big Ten war of the titans. The No. 2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will host the No. 3 ranked Michigan Wolverines November 26. While both schools will be able to make arguments that they belong in the title game regardless of the result, the recommendation here is that the loser does get a spot.

That is especially true of Ohio State. The game is at Ohio Stadium and that’s a huge advantage for the Buckeyes. If the visiting Wolverines can deliver the road upset and build a 2-game winning streak in the series, why would the Buckeyes deserve to go? Losing a home game to an archrival should eliminate their claim to a playoff spot.

Michigan may want to say it should go in a close loss, but if they lose by more than one score, they will not deserve to go either.

So, that should eliminate one of the 2 Big Ten stalwarts.

The Trojans also need TCU to lose one of its last 2 regular-season games or drop the Big 12 title game. The Horned Frogs have a very tough game this week against Baylor, one that comes a week after TCU’s huge road win against favored Texas. When a team is coming off a dynamic performance against a big-name opponent that required a full effort in the previous week, the following game could result in a trap.

The most realistic way for the Trojans to get into the playoffs is with impressive wins over UCLA and Notre Dame, a home loss by Ohio State and a defeat by TCU in one of its last three games. While Tennessee will also have an argument, the Volunteers and Trojans will both get their opportunities.

As for the 2-loss Alabama Crimson Tide and their multitude of apologists — not this year!