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Finally Some Sense...

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Dennis Dodd is one of those writers that I like to read. I am not as ambivalent towards his work as I am others but I won't deny that at times I see his work as off the mark or uninteresting. But today I think he nails it and to me its eloquent.

All this talk of USC being the best of an era or the best in the nation is a bit premature if its not tempered with some reality. Its a little too early yet if USC is to get to Miami there can be no Stanford type games on their record. I am not asking for 70 point blow outs but there can be no humiliating losses. Close wins are acceptable, though not too close, as to most voters a win is a win.

SC needs to keep its focus and take EVERYONE seriously. And right now it couldn't be more important!

As much as you want to get excited about No. 1 USC's latest statement-making win, there's a certain, "Yeah, but ..." to its future. As in: Yeah, but is there another Stanford in its future? In a season of upsets, USC losing at home to the 41-point underdog Cardinal last season might have been the biggest -- of all time.

It was obvious after Saturday's 35-3 victory over Ohio State that the Trojans were still figuring out what happened last Oct. 6 and convincing themselves that it would never happen again.

"After watching it 100 times, I couldn't tell you what happened," said senior defensive tackle Fili Moala. "I think it was just complacency."

This is the first time that the "C" word as Dodd callis it has ever been uttered. But with the rest of the Pac-10 getting smoked this weekend SC needs to be even more careful to take everyone seriously. Stanford was embarrassing and there isn't anything to make it go away...someone will always bring it up no matter what SC accomplishes going forward. IF SC beats ucla in 2006 its off to another title game. IF they beat Stanford in 2007 that would have made it 4-in-a-row!

It was just that close!!

Dodd also points out that one of the keys will be the new leadership on this team in that of one Fili Moala

In a locker room of go-to interviews, Moala might be the conscience of the Trojans. His answers are thoughtful. He thinks about the question and doesn't spout clichés. You can tell without asking that teammates look up to him.

It's obvious from talking to him that there was an element of leadership that was missing last season. Maybe the Trojans were too young, too complacent. This year's team has 12 senior starters counting special teamers. It's hard to say what went "wrong" after an 11-2 Rose Bowl-winning season in 2007. I do know they don't necessarily measure success here by mere Rose Bowls.

What's the big deal? The program has lost once at home since 2001. That loss was to Stanford and the stench doesn't wash away that easily.

That's a pretty big statement.

I always thought that the leadership by example provided by Ellis, Jackson and Rivers was the glue that kept things together but I guys by the above statement I was wrong.

With all the talk about this being Pete Carroll's best team ever the expectations once again are pretty high in regards to the fans and the media. Pete Carroll says there won't be a let down, that this team is more mature and won't let that happen. Maybe maybe not, but you the Stanford loss has a lot to do with that. Most people were willing to give SC a passs after 13-9. It was rivalry game against a team that was struggling for any sort of attention against the caucauphony praise showered on SC coming off of 2 MNC's and narrowly missing a third in what is the greatest college football game of all time.

The bruins got their win and a slice of attention but as 2007 arrived they were once again either ignored or forgotten as terrible underachievers.

My question is how does the coaching staff ensure that it won't happen?

USC coach Pete Carroll witnessed the carnage that afflicted the Pac-10 on Saturday, and he has seen it happen in sports countless times: A team comes off an emotional victory and falls flat on its face.

Carroll mentioned it to his team after USC’s 35-3 victory over Ohio State in a contest billed as the Game of the Year. The Trojans have a week and a half off before visiting Oregon State next Thursday, and Carroll has a plan to avoid any sort of letdown.

“We have set a standard for how we practice, and that’s what I’m going to hold them to,” Carroll said Sunday night. “I’m just going to make sure we do what we always do. We’re going to practice hard. We’re going to try to get really good on Tuesday, have a heck of a Tuesday practice. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Carroll did concede that he has “no idea” whether “100 kids who are 20 years old” will get it, but he always can use what happened to the rest of the conference Saturday as an illustration.

Drill it home and drill it home often!

The puzzling thing in all this is that SC has always stated that it doesn't matter who they play...every game is the same yet some how that wasn't the case on October 6th. That mantra is being put forth again this year...

One of the overriding themes from coach Pete Carroll and his players was how Ohio State was "just another game." The implication was: "If we do our thing, no one can beat us."

Asked QB Mark Sanchez about the same thing I asked Mays.

"We were so prepared for this game, it didn't matter who we played," Sanchez said. "I didn't even take a second to think how they would feel about it."

Said Carroll: "We practiced so well and this was really the outcome we thought could happen -- unless we didn't know what we were talking about."

Later he added: "Tonight it didn't matter who we were playing."

Preparation to performance -- and no one can match the talent.

I know that's the mantra but SC was burned last year by not having lived up to it against Stanford. I don't want to see that happen again this year. Things appear to be clicking on all cylinders so far in 2008. There has been no sleep walk opening win this season and they did to Ohio State what they did to Nebraska last year but now the chips are down as conference play starts and SC needs to get it done.