The planes have departed and festivities are officially taking place in Sin City leading up to the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday. Winning remains the biggest goal, but one could argue much more is on the line than a 10-win season.
From what we have seen in recent memory, it involves treating your opponent, your host town and the preparation process with the utmost respect and concentration for the next few days. Something that has been discussed around the program and was quickly addressed by coach Helton before the team departed from Los Angeles.
"We have treated you like men all year and we expect you to act like grown men. Obviously we are gonna have a little bit of fun there, but we are going to set curfews every night," interim coach Clay Helton said about his team's preparation heading into the bowl game.
Among the antics from last season's Hyundai Sun Bowl, the team was late to a dinner with opponent Georgia Tech -- though apparently that was connected to a flight delay -- and certain players voiced their displeasure towards spending winter break in El Paso, Tex..
What could make this game different for USC is the greatest gift of them all, the gift of timing. The Trojans play Fresno State in the first game of the entire bowl season, something that comes as a blessing in disguise for a program looking not only to win but also move swiftly into the Steve Sarkisian head coaching era.
Last year's uninspired performance on New Year's Eve is vividly rememberable, which definitely set USC back with its coaching staff and confidence for a good deal of time.
In a year that could set decibel records for the amount of news sparking the sound level meter, the Trojans have had time to absorb the lows of losing to Washington State and being crushed in Tempe this season and the high of defeating then No. 4 Stanford at the Coliseum in November.
So as the team pulls up to its hotel on Wednesday, it seems one door is effectively closing to open another.
"Any time that you have kids that live in the middle of the city, if you live in LA, then you can live anywhere," said Helton, describing whether his team would possibly lose focus playing a bowl game in Las Vegas.
The biggest thing keeping this team together is finishing the year out strong for the entire remaining coaching staff, of which only Tee Martin has been announced as coming back for next season.
In terms of big picture, this program is looking to embrace the spirit Ed Orgeron left by playing for its former head coach and closing out the season quickly, swiftly and in grand fashion. What could ultimately be in USC's favor, however, is that the trip to Vegas is centered around business and fond memories over pleasure.
"We represent the Trojan family. We represent our brother that lives next to us. We represent our own family," Helton said about his team's possible behavior and focus this week. "At the end of the day student athletes have to be responsible and thank goodness we have guys of the utmost character and we ultimately trust them."
What are the players saying? Well it all begins with the leadership on top, and from what we've been hearing throughout finals week is that players want to win this game not only for themselves but also Orgeron and his remaining staff.
Hayes Pullard lll ✌ (@FightOn10) December 18, 2013
USC will certainly be put to the test on Saturday, but if history and timing play a role in this weekend's Las Vegas Bowl, the Trojans will be playing all out for one last football game in 2013.