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The Key to Next Year

That is what tomorrows game is all about, next year. Winning big games like the one tomorrow opens a lot of doors to the future. Recruiting, team chemistry and the future of some on the coaching staff are all affected with a win, or loss, tomorrow. Winning also gets us back on track to putting some of the disappointment of this season behind us. I realize there hasn't been much disappointment this season but those two tough losses have made a number of people scratch their heads, including me.

ESPN's Bruce Feldman covers all the bases in his article on Friday.

...It all sounds fantastic, but it would become a very long offseason if the Trojans can't stand up to Michigan. This is a crossroads game for USC. The Trojans must finish this season off on a strong beat. They have to snuff out any lingering doubt that grew from the UCLA debacle, which was indicative of a very un-Trojan-like season.

"I don't think we have to prove it to other people, I think we have to prove it to ourselves," conceded Booty. "It's all about us and we want to get this taste out of our mouths and get back on the winning track. We're really not trying to prove anything to anybody else."

The fact is SC does have some questions to answer. Will the offense continue recover from a lackluster performance on Dec.2nd? Will Kiffin finally stop being predictable? Will the defense settle in and stop over playing the ball?

CFR and MGoBlog have a great game preview here, go check it out. They have done some thorough work as there is some great info in the post, but at the end of the day one thing is clear, not winning tomorrow, like Feldman said, will make for a very long off-season. It is impossible to continue to play at such a high level but we have been given an opportunity that very few schools have had of late so we need to make the best of this opportunity.

I think the key to tomorrow will be the USC offensive line against the Michigan defensive front. Containing the Michigan defense will give Booty the time he needs to set the plays in motion. I have no doubt that the Michigan secondary will busy tomorrow if Booty gets the protection he needs.

This says it all:

Some former Miami coaches say it is virtually impossible to sustain that level. Great players jump to the NFL early. Assistant coaches move on. Younger players don't know what it took to get to that level. Worse still, they say, it takes a whole lot of great breaks to win 34 straight and eventually the breaks start going the other way. It is all such a delicate mix.

As usual, head coach Pete Carroll doesn't seem worried though. "We've always bounced back," Carroll said. "I really don't expect anything different this time around."

We'll see tomorrow.