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"To conquer without risk, is to triumph without glory

That is the reason why USC always plays tough teams in their out of conference schedule. Another reason is because Pete Carroll feels that if you play cupcakes you tend to play down to the level of your competiton and that doesn't do anything to challenge your skills.

Here is Carroll on the Petros and Money Show from earlier in the week where he discusses that and his thoughts on tonight's game against Ohio State. (it's about 16 min. long)

I found the title of this story in a story by Austin Murphy on SI.com. Murphy does a great job in laying out the philosophy of why USC schedules top teams and how they prepare for them.

I guess it makes sense that USC is favored by 11 over Ohio State. The Trojans will be at home, the Coliseum off the hook. Mascot-wise, Traveler has the edge on Brutus Buckeye.

[...]The makers of these odds have clearly taken the "Stun Factor" into consideration. That's my coinage for the strange spell that settles on USC's early-season, non-conference opponents. It explains why quality teams with terrific athletes come into these September epics looking to make a statement, but end up looking like dynamited fish, belly-up and wondering what concussive force just rocked their world in yet another Trojans rout.

A brief history of the Stun Factor: In 2003, the Trojans dispensed with Auburn, BYU and Hawaii by the combined score of 109-50. A year later, Virginia Tech, Colorado State and BYU were outscored by the men of Troy, 115-23.

And then things got really ugly for 'SC's early-season cultural-exchange partners. Recall the Leinart, Bush and White-led vivisections of Hawaii (63-17) and Arkansas (70-17) in '05. So morale-killing was the latter beatdown that it was likened by Reggie Herring, then the Razorbacks' defensive coordinator, to "having your dog run over, your wife left you and your house burned down." So when the Trojans hung only half a hundred on Herring & Co. the following season, Arkansas' sports information office celebrated the "vast improvement" of the defense, which had yielded a stingy 472 total yards (down from 736!). If only Arkansas had played the Trojans a couple more times, the Hogs would've held them to negative yardage!

I love the rationalization by Arkansas...yeah right!

The results have shown that there is a method to the madness. This is why that, for the most part, the Pac-10 does so well in these big games. And this is why USC in Particular is always in the national discussion.

Is this one of the reasons why Ohio State hasn't fared well in big games outside the conference of late (bowl games included)? I don't know, but it makes a lot of sense that when a team is tested it builds their character when the chips are down and it prepares them for bigger and better things.

But it is also the reason why players like Roy Small don't get it and then wind up making stupid statements that they may pay for later. Its a different culture at USC, alot of people in the sport don't get it but it works. To SC it's just another game and to give it any more pregame preparation than any other just doesn't work in Carroll's environment. I know its trite, as we have been hearing about it all week but all the hype is created by the fans and the media with outrageous message board posts and crazy titles you read in print.

The players know it's a big game but it hasn't changed their outlook.

USC safety Kevin Ellison has had enough of the hype. He’s ready for some action.

“I don’t really care. I’m tired of talking about it,” Ellison said after being asked — again — about injured Ohio State star Chris “Beanie” Wells. “If he’s in there, good for him. You want to play their full squad. We’re going to play whoever they bring.

“It’s time to play. It’s time to hone in and get down to it. It’s going to be rocking at the Coliseum.”

These guys just want to play its a simple as that. Both teams know this game is a big deal and each will approach in the way that suits them best but it is hard to deny that USC has been down this road before and handled it pretty well. This one is either going to be trench warfare or its going to be a real barn burner, regardless this will be a great game and not a blow out some a lot of pundits and fans predict. Ohio State can play some ball and Beanie or no Beanie they will approach the game just like SC will and leave it all out on the field.

Make no mistake, SC has a little more experience with these types of games early on in the season which is why so many think SC will pour it on. But never overlook a team like Ohio State, they didn't get where they are by just showing up.

A clarification...

I am not suggesting that Ohio State can’t hang with USC or any other top team; on the contrary, in fact I have been pretty open that I think this game will be closer than a lot of people think. I really think OSU’s defense is being overlooked by a lot of fans and pundits especially their D line that has to go up against a relatively new USC offensive line. So I am not yet convinced that SC will cover the spread. Just my opinion…

That being said a commenter tried to point out that OSU is no slouch (unfortunately, the comment was deleted for other reasons thus ending any possibility of a decent give and take). In the big games in last 5 years, OSU has been 2-2 (Okla. State was unrated.). Overall Tressel is 8-4 vs. the top 5 and 26-10 vs. the top 25. But those numbers to me are tempered with the amount of FCS teams that OSU has played and for the most part dominated so to me its just not apples to apples. OSU has won the Big 10 4 times under Tressel but it’s not like the Big 10 has been dominant over all the past few years.

No one is doubting that OSU won’t schedule top teams, home and homes with both Texas and USC show they will take the risk.