LOS ANGELES (AP) -The approach at Southern California is pretty basic: Every game is a championship game.
And that includes Saturday night's game against Idaho.
That's right - Idaho.
``It doesn't matter who we're playing or where we're playing,'' Trojans coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday at his first weekly meeting with reporters. ``That's how we look at it.''
The Trojans are favored by 45 1/2 points in the season-opener at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where they shoot for their 34th straight victory at home. A crowd of over 90,000 is expected.
The point spread doesn't mean a thing to Carroll, and his players have bought in to his philosophy.
``If you take any team lighter than another team, your focus is wrong,'' said center Matt Spanos, a fifth-year senior who will be making his first career start against the Vandals. ``We prepare for everybody the same.
``We don't go into any game thinking ahead of ourselves. It's just like that in life - you've got to live in the present.''
Maybe so, but the game figures to be little more than a tuneup for the difficult schedule that lies ahead, starting Sept. 15 when the Trojans travel to No. 20 Nebraska.
At least that's how it appears.
``The starters could be in with two minutes left in the game,'' said defensive end Lawrence Jackson, one of 10 returning starters from a defense that dominated Michigan in the Rose Bowl game last year, when the Trojans beat the Wolverines 32-18.
``We expect it to be a tough game. We respect every opponent,'' Jackson said. ``It's football. We know it's all about us. We don't care if it's Idaho, a Pop Warner team, an NFL team.''
USC has a 59-6 record during the past five seasons, and opens the campaign ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 for the third time in four years.
The Vandals were 14-45 during the last five years including 4-8 last season, when they were outscored 417-203. Idaho has a new coaching staff led by first-time head coach Robb Akey, and was picked to finish last in the Western Athletic Conference this season.
USC has John David Booty at quarterback - a fifth-year senior who passed for 3,347 yards and 29 touchdowns last season and is considered a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Idaho has Nathan Enderle, a redshirt freshman who will be playing his first collegiate game.
The Trojans have a stable of highly regarded tailbacks. The Vandals list another redshirt freshman, Deonte Jackson, as their starter at that position.
USC has never lost to Idaho in seven previous meetings, and has a 27-1 record against WAC schools.
Taking all that and more into consideration, it will be shocking if the Trojans have their starters in the game with two minutes left.
Nevertheless, Spanos expressed surprised when told the Trojans are 45 1/2-point favorites.
``Really? I didn't know that,'' he said. ``They have a new coaching staff, but they're still a good football team. I've seen them on film, I know a couple guys who play there.''
The Vandals have 11 players from the greater Los Angeles area who are listed as first or second stringers.
``I think everybody's going to be into it,'' Spanos said. ``We're going to come in there on game day fully focused.''
And not looking ahead?
``It's not the right thing to do,'' Spanos replied with a smile.
Chauncey Washington, a fifth-year senior who led the Trojans in rushing last year with 744 yards on 157 carries, is sidelined with a sprained right shoulder. Carroll said sophomore C.J. Gable will start at tailback, with sophomores Allen Bradford and Stafon Johnson and freshman Broderick Green backing him up.
The coach said he's hopeful highly regarded freshman Joe McKnight will get some playing time as well. McKnight, hampered by a stretched knee ligament for two weeks, returned to practice Monday and was cleared for contact Tuesday.
``There's no part of me that wants to hold him back,'' Carroll said of McKnight, who has been compared to Reggie Bush in terms of explosiveness and playing style. ``We'd love to play him.''

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