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What If: Reggie Bush Played For Stanford?

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The Pac-12 has had a couple of Heisman Trophy winners this past decade, with all of them big USC players. The most dynamic of those players had to be Reggie Bush. Bush ended up producing his best performances during the heyday of the Trojan Empire, when USC made two national championship appearances, with one title resulting from those efforts. Bush also won a 2005 Heisman Trophy for his efforts.

However, those of us who don't remember the Bush recruitment might not realize how close one of the greatest open-field talents in the conference came to being either a Fighting Irish, or a Cardinal. Here's what the expert opinion at Scout had to say about Bush's road to commit to USC, which involved him liking what he saw from the Trojans.

At this point just over a month ago Bush was not really considering SC and was generally thought to be choosing from Notre Dame and Stanford. Then he visits the Coliseum for the game against the Irish and is impressed enough with the Trojans to start taking a long look. By all accounts this is a serious young man and once he started paying more attention to USC he liked what he saw. Reggie scheduled a quick visit, he began talking about what a big impact the Trojan track program could have on his decision and now comes the news that he has committed.

The result could have impacted the entire balance of power in the Pac-10 during the 2000s.

USC without Bush loses their dynamic playmaking ability, as Bush was able to not only rush but make space catches in the open field and force defenses to account for him at all time. Without Bush, USC becomes a far more methodical offensive attack, where the Trojans rely more on the power of LenDale White in the backfield and utilizes far less capable runners to back him up. In many ways the Trojans would probably look like the regular Trojan offense we saw the rest of the decade--methodical, but hardly overwhelming. USC probably drops a game or two here and there every year, but they probably don't sniff the title game the past two seasons.

Additionally, the door opens even more for schools like Cal, UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State, all of whom fielded competitive teams during that 2003-05 period. Without the domination of USC during the Bush years, this could taper off recruiting success, and USC probably doesn't dominate the 2000s in the Pac-12 like they have the past decade.

As for Bush, he probably prospers with Notre Dame, might even give them a chance to earn a national championship with Brady Quinn. But could you imagine Stanford? With coaches like Walt Harris and Buddy Teevens? Bush was a great talent, and he'd have a decent QB in Trent Edwards to get him the football, but he would probably have been totally wasted with a Cardinal team that never topped five wins in any season. At best he leads them to some bowls, but he would probably never have sniffed the Heisman.

It's unlikely the expectations foisted upon him coming out of college. Bush was a great playmaker, but he often needed help from the rest of his teammates to succeed. The Trojans had legitimate NFL-caliber players at almost every position, and Bush was often taking advantage of open lanes his teammates created for him. His entire career trajectory (and his expectations coming out of college) would be more on par with any other big playmaker.

This is also a double-edged 'what-if', because despite all the spectacular stuff that Bush did on-the-field at USC, he will forever be remembered for how he ended up tarnishing the Trojan legacy off of it. I doubt Bush would've found himself involved in illicit recruiting practices in Palo Alto or South Bend. USC probably never experiences probation, but they probably also never earn the national championships that sanctions ended up taking away.

How do you reconcile one scenario with the other? Each has its benefits, but also tradeoffs too.

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