|Trojans appear primed for another run at a national championship|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 24 August 2007 09:11|
Unless they beat themselves.
Southern California doesn't mean to disrespect the opposition, it's just that the top-ranked Trojans believe in their talent, experience and coaching staff.
``It's up to us. The ball's in our court,'' defensive end Lawrence Jackson said. ``That's our philosophy, that's what we believe.''
Call it supreme confidence, or even arrogance. All things considered, either attitude is understandable.
``You have to be confident, not cocky. At no point should you be cocky,'' defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said. ``Of course we're talented, and everybody knows it. If we lose, it will be us beating ourselves.''
Jackson and Ellis are among the leaders on a defense that returns 10 starters from last season, when the Trojans, facing one of the country's most difficult schedules, allowed 15.2 points per game to rank 11th nationally.
Seven starters, including quarterback John David Booty and two-time All-American tackle Sam Baker, return on offense from a team that went 11-2 including a 32-18 victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
The Trojans face a demanding road schedule with games at No. 20 Nebraska, Washington, Notre Dame, Oregon, No. 12 California and Arizona State, but figure to have what it takes for a national championship run.
``We have shut teams down on the road,'' Jackson said. ``We're the same team no matter where we play - on the practice field, on the moon, on water.''
USC has been the most successful team in the country since 2002 - the second year of the Pete Carroll era. After going 6-6 in Carroll's first season as coach, the Trojans have gone 59-6 in the last five, winning two national championships and barely missing a third. The six losses were by a total of 22 points.
This team might be their best yet.
``This is the team coach Carroll envisioned,'' Jackson said. ``I just think the overall athleticism level is higher across the board. We believe we have an opportunity to be really good.''
So does first-year Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, who stunned the gathering at Pac-10 Media Day last month when he said he believes USC is the best team in the country and maybe the best team in the history of college football.
``I'm not a sports analyst or historian,'' Ellis said. ``What I know is we have great talent and great speed.''
Washington State coach Bill Doba, asked what it would take to beat the Trojans, replied: ``I think SC has to beat themselves. I think (Carroll) just has to guard against overconfidence or not being prepared or having really, really, really bad luck.''
The Trojans were a near-unanimous choice as No. 1 in The Associated Press preseason poll, receiving 62 of the 65 first-place votes to far outdistance No. 2 LSU.
Carroll reacted by saying: ``It's exactly where we hope and expect to be. It's a symbol of what we're all about.''
Booty, a fifth-year senior, passed for 3,347 yards and 29 touchdowns with only nine interceptions as a first-year starter last season and is being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy contender.
``Mentally and physically, he's obviously more mature,'' offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. ``He's handling everything that comes with his position. I think he's being a great leader. On top of that, he's playing very good football.''
Sophomore Emmanuel Moody, USC's second-leading rusher last season, has decided to transfer because of the outstanding talent at tailback, where up to nine players are competing for playing time.
Chauncey Washington, a senior, figures to get the most carries. Sophomores C.J. Gable, Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson, and highly touted freshmen Joe McKnight and Broderick Green have also impressed in practice.
``Our objective is to put them in a position to succeed,'' Sarkisian said.
Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith, one of college football's top wide receiver tandems last season, are playing in the NFL, leaving junior Patrick Turner, sophomores Vidal Hazelton and Travon Patterson, redshirt freshman David Ausberry, and incoming freshman Ronald Johnson at the position.
``Patrick Turner's been ready, he just hasn't had the opportunity to get out there,'' Booty said. ``It's his time to shine.''
Turner caught 29 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Baker is joined on the offensive line by returning starters Chilo Rachal and Drew Radovich. The biggest loss was center Ryan Kalil, a three-year starter.
``It was tough losing Ryan, we're going to miss him, but we're going to be OK,'' Baker said.
Baker believes the Trojans will be more than OK on the other side of the ball, and he should know since he faces the USC defense every day.
``The biggest thing is, I think those linebackers are the biggest, fastest linebackers who have ever played college football,'' he said, referring to Brian Cushing, Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers. ``And Sedrick Ellis and LoJack (Jackson) are beasts.''
Cornerback Terrell Thomas and safety Taylor Mayes - both sophomores - lead a secondary that also figures to be one of the nation's best.
Baker said winning another national championship would be great.
``But our goal every year is to win the Rose Bowl,'' he said. ``That's the only thing we can control.''
Not necessarily. Should the Trojans win their 12 regular-season games, they'll almost surely be playing in New Orleans in the BCS national championship game.