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The Home Stretch...

So, USC heads into the home stretch for this weeks Rose Bowl game against Penn St.

I am haven't been thrilled to read a number of things that I have read over the past few weeks about how USC wasn't going to be up for this game because its "just another Rose Bowl".This is going to be a great game and I think this will be the best game of all the BCS bowl games because the teams are so evenly matched. In fact I think this game does great a little short shrift because its at the Rose Bowl in a traditional Pac-10/Big 10 match-up. Imagine the buzz if this game was at the Fiesta Bowl or the Sugar Bowl!

The other potential distractions out there like Sarkisian pulling double duty as UW's new head coach as he puts his staff together and as he hits the recruiting trail to try an build UW back to prominence. Who stays and who heads to the NFL is another potential distraction for a number of upperclassmen as the mull the future. It looks like Gable will leave the decision up to what the coaches tell him what's best and with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell putting off any rookie salary slotting until 2011 the money issue for some players is pretty off the table as it now shouldn't be a factor in their decision making.

Regardless of all that...

USC gets up for these type of games!

And it would appear that this game will be no different.

"This is the finish time," he said. "You can just tell that everybody was pumped up in the meetings."

Since USC is playing in the Rose Bowl for the fourth consecutive season, the Trojans are participating in the same pre-bowl events, including Friday's post-practice trip to Disneyland, a dinner Sunday at Lawry's in Beverly Hills and an evening at a comedy club.

Now that the game is finally within sight, several players said they were happy about the routine.

"I'm not bored," senior linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "I'm looking forward to everything that's going to be thrown our way. We know what to expect, so we're not overly anxious of what's going to happen next."

Sanchez also seemed to appreciate the comfort of familiarity.

"I think I've got the same [hotel] room of a couple years ago, so that's perfect for me," he said.

Familiarty can be a good thing andI would agree that there are some extraordinary circumstances surrounding the team right now but Pete Carroll coaches the team to treat each game the same.

Its the fans or the MSM that look to dissect these types of potential distractions. The team looks at it as just a football game. Yes there is a certain familiarity that this game gives USC and its easy for some to say that its just another ho-hum game but the inverse could be said about PSU...Is there too much excitement for them? JoPa is a good enough coach to make sure that his team stays focused and not peak too early. (emphasis added)

Penn State coach Joe Paterno has been doing this long enough to know that variety will be his biggest ally over the final week of Rose Bowl preparation.

Whether it's running every trick play in the book during practice or getting some visits from former Nittany Lions star players, Paterno will try to mix things up as game day approaches.

"You have to keep them on a certain level of conditioning. You don't want to overdo it, you don't want them getting bored, you don't want them getting tired," Paterno said, listing the challenges he faces with such a long time between the team's Nov. 22 season finale and the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. "You want to put one or two little things in there that are going to be a little different so that the other guy you're playing can't say, `Hey, this is what they are going to do all the time.' So there are some things like that that work into it."

But Paterno isn't just looking for his team to have sharp minds come game day against USC. He also wants his players to be as fit as possible, which is not such a simple task.

"The biggest thing is not to lose who you are, try to get everybody a little bit better, a little bit quicker and play a little faster and do it without having a bunch of tired, bored guys," Paterno said.

So, it can cut both ways. While I don't think its likely, there is always the chance that PSU could get a little "starstruck" over playing at their first Rose Bowl in a number of years. But like I said, I doubt it...

This will not be an easy game for SC I don't care how good the defense is. The offense has had its issues and not enough pundits give PSU a chance and that to me is a mistake...this is a very good PSU team that makes very few mistakes and it won't take much if USC to fall behind if they don't bring their "A" game on Thursday.

PSU is basically flying under the radar so there really isn't any pressure on them from where I stand so tey can throw caution to the wind.

Too many distractions for my comfort...