I have this nightmare about once every fall. I’ve got a team, a team that I follow and like. They are a good team. They take to the field and play really well. They think they are great. Trophies are buffed and future riches spent. Everyone who likes them – and there are many, basking in the glow – is pleased. They cheer.

Then there is screaming. The wind turns cold and everything goes black and the monsters … the monsters are there. Nothing is going right, my stomach drops to my toes, and I know that it’s happening again.

I’m sick of it. Vomitously ill. Somebody pinch me and wake me up. Again.

One of my best friends is a Baylor graduate. The Baylor Bears haven’t been to a bowl game in 14 years. My dad is a former Notre Dame football player – that storied program broke a record nine-game bowl losing streak last year against Hawaii. My uncle is a former player for Cal, and they haven’t been to the postseason Rose Bowl in almost 50 years.

So what.

I’m still sick to death of those mighty footballers from SoCal, the USC football Trojans.

Yes, they’ve won seven straight Pac-10 titles, three straight Rose Bowl wins and have compiled an 82-9 record since the 2002 season. They are a good team, a very good team, and I have no right to be dismayed or sickened. But I am.

Because somehow once again, somehow, the No. 3 nationally-ranked Trojans, a week removed from a stunning, last-drive victory over an excellent Ohio State team playing its collective heart out in front of 100,000 screaming fans in Columbus, couldn’t get its goddamn act together to beat a University of Washington Huskies side that did not win a single game last season.

I know all the excuses. The Trojans were without their starting quarterback – true freshman Matt Barkley – and the Huskies are a much-improved team this year under former SC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who accepted the UW head coaching job this off-season. Yes, Husky Stadium is a tough place to play. Yes, every weekend in the college football year must be taken seriously.

But come on. COME ON. I’d give far more credence to these excuses if they hadn’t been already exhausted over the past four years. Let me itemize:

2006: An undefeated SC squad, an SC team that hadn’t lost to a Pac-10 opponent in 27 straight games or lost a regular season game in 38 straight contests, travels up north to Corvallis and loses 33-31 to an Oregon State Beavers team that entered the game 4-3.

2006: Despite that loss to Oregon State, a series of stunning turns of fortune finds the Trojans once again near the top of the polls and in position to play for a national championship for the fourth time in four seasons. SC needs to beat 6-5 UCLA in the Rose Bowl in their last contest of the regular season to go to the national championship game. They manage only nine points and fall in perhaps their most painful modern upset.

2007: SC is a 41-point favorite at home over the Stanford Cardinal, a lowly 1-3 entering the game, yet find a way to lose on a last-second touchdown, 23-24, in one of the largest point-spread upsets in college football history. Goodbye streak of 35 games undefeated at home.

2007: SC again claws back up into contention after the Stanford loss, climbing to No. 8 in the polls, but goes up north again and gets beaten by Oregon 24-17.

2008: The No. 1 team in the country, having pasted Virginia and Ohio State in the first two weeks of the season, the Trojans go up north once again and get beaten, once again, by Oregon State (1-2 coming into the night). They drop to No. 9 and lose out on any chance of title contention.

I have this nightmare that comes every fall. A good team that thinks they’re great, the greatest, with their sights set on everything, falls to a team that outplays them. All the spoiled fans of this great team cry and whine and wring their hands at the injustice of it all. “Why us?” they ask. As they should, nobody else pays them any mind.

But it doesn’t make my nightmare go away, and it doesn’t wake me up from the reality that it could – and probably will – happen again.

Damn you, Trojans. Damn you for jilting me and stamping on my heart once again. Damn you.