It has been interesting to read in a few different places how either SC isn't pumped up for this game or how SC really doesn't have anything to prove or ho-hum its just another Rose Bowl, etc. Unfortunately SC is in a bit of a lose-lose situation. If they narrowly beat or even lose to Illinois then it is easy to say that SC was either unprepared or disinterested in this game and that's not a good impression to make. If they beat them by 3 TD's or more the critics will say well you should have beat them as Illinois shouldn't have even been in this game because of weak BCS system.
With all the preseason hype and the fan-base's high expectations SC's disappointing loss to Stanford is the sole reason as to why we are playing in this game. This is not a consolation game, this is our reward for winning the Pac 10 and until the BCS was instituted this was always our championship game. I understood what Pete Carroll meant when he said at last years media day that the goal is always to get to the Rose Bowl, with the BCS always in flux winning your conference will always put you in a BCS bowl game and until there is a better way of determining national champion winning your conference title is THE necessary first step.
The fact is this game is more important than people realize. SC has been at the top of mountain in L.A. and at or near the top of the mountain nationally for 5 years now. Keeping that edge will be a little more challenging now that Slick Rick is in town as he is sure to raise the stakes in L.A. Now don't get me wrong, I am on the record as not being scared of RN's hire. He has a lot of work to do in building that program into any level of respectability but at the same token a lackadaisical USC makes RN's job easier as he can exploit any appearance of a cavalier attitude as one of entitlement. The hungry always beat out fattened.
I am a leave no doubt kind of personality when it comes to things that are important to me that I can control and if I can't control it then I always put myself in a favorable position when the outcome is determined by other factors. That is what SC should be doing now, winning the Rose Bowl is key if SC expects to continue dominating the college football scene in L.A. SC can't stay on top forever but they can be in a position to ALWAYS control their own destiny and set the tone in their favor.
RN will get his share of recruits and you can mark my words that there will be some epic battles in the recruiting wars in the years to come. What RN does with those recruits is another issue for another time but Pete Carroll needs to keep sharp and this is just the thing he needs to stay competitive. PC sets barriers up for himself to keep sharp; he has a big ego that sometimes gets in the way. He always pushes the envelope to see just how far he push it.
RN's arrival will set up another challenge for PC to tackle and I have no doubt that he will win more than he loses against RN. Competition is a good thing and RN will raise the stakes. So this game is more important than some may realize as SC has had to learn the hard way to take all of their opponents seriously whether they are on the field or not.
This game is all about the future and the future is now.