With some lost talent from 2007 and brand new quarterbacks to master the system, the Trojans will need to take every game seriously and meet every opponent with the same fervor.
With losses to Stanford and Oregon keeping the men of Troy out of the national championship, an mindset adjustment is necessary to take every snap with extreme mental focus. The talent is there, but losing at home to a 41-point underdog displays a flaw in the mind and not in the muscle.
With a defense that presents a number of new starters, Rey Maualuga's performance will be vital to the team. The losses of Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, and Lawrence Jackson have potential to be terrible blows to the Trojans' defense, especially against the run.
If Maualuga can claim leadership of the defense and Brian Cushing stays healthy, the Pac-10's offenses will be in for some long nights.
Opinion: Making Mark Sanchez the starting quarterback is a bad mistake.
Fact: The running game will make up for it.
With former quarterback John David Booty taking snaps with the Minnesota Vikings, Pete Carroll chose junior Mark Sanchez to lead the passing game.
Here are five reasons that was a bad move.
1. The guy is a thug. He parties very hard and has also been arrested (not convicted) for rape.
2. Mitch Mustain is much more reliable and already has the experience since transferring from Arkansas.
3. "But Mustain is a scrambler and doesn't fit in the spread offense!" With the uniqueness of USC's offensive scheme, scrambling is just a bonus, not a factor.
4. Sanchez has still has wrinkles to be ironed out: pocket awareness, discerning the opposing defense, etc., etc.... The last time Sanchez started against a competitive team and won was in high school. Attributes such as the ones mentioned can be improved, but there are still aspects of college football that Sanchez just won't get used to very quickly.
5. Intense pressure. EVERYONE will be watching this young buck and comparing him to Leinart and Palmer. As critics babble about athletes and fans make statements, all of the college football world will be crouched, ready to criticize. Pressure is hardly ever a good thing. "Yes Eli Manning, I see your point. Please sit down."
Nevertheless, if Sanchez can dominate the passing game and use the elusiveness that Leinart used in the recent decade, the Trojans will be unstoppable.
at Virginia - Trojans' opener proves strength, silences critics' claims of complete breakdown.
Ohio State - Ah! The game of the season! Too bad USC shows its Big-10 counterpart for what it really is: an overrated group of guys that belong in an overrated conference. Trojan defense shows its stuff.
at Oregon State - The last time the Trojans played here, they lost on a failed two-point conversion in the final seconds. This will not be the case this time, as the SC offense will shine and the running game surprises everyone.
Oregon - The Trojans' second loss last season due to John David Booty breaking his finger. The men of Troy have not lost to the same team in back-to-back seasons for...a long time!
Arizona State - Two Pac-10 title contenders will be meeting possibly undefeated at this point. But in front of a supportive LA crowd, the Trojans pull it off in a close one as the defense plays the largest factor.
at Washington State - Simple game. The Trojans will go to Pullman and win as long as they adjust their mentality to not take any game lightly.
at Arizona - Here it is. THIS is the Trojans' upset of the year. A confident team will be stunned on Saturday night football in front of roaring Wildcats fans. The defense fails and the offense is sloppy and never finds its groove, while Arizona plays lights-out.
Washington - Trojans get their heads back on straight and blast Washington in LA. The running game plays a major role in Trojan blowout.
California - A tough Cal team will come to the Coliseum and provide competition for the Pac-10 crown. SC pulls away and the defense shows its full potential.
at Stanford - SC has not forgotten. The Cardinal embarrassed the Trojans last year in front of an equally embarrassed LA crowd. Now it's payback—Pete Carroll is seeking revenge, and he gets it. The Trojans' offense breezes by Stanford.
Notre Dame - A nice Saturday evening in LA with the season drawing to a close. USC is two games away from a possible national championship berth and has an easy road to finish off the '08 campaign. In the stands some people sip coffee and and the players are enjoying the relaxation after their first bye since week three.
Then everyone in LA remembers who they are playing—the hated Irish! The crummy Notre Dame team which has completely folded marches onto the field proud and promising upset. Then the Trojans obliterate them. All in a day's work.
at UCLA - The last time the Trojans played their cross-town rival at the Rose Bowl, UCLA stunned them to steal USC's chance at another national title. Then they played last year at the Coliseum and the Trojans beat them fair and square, but not by enough.
Pete Carroll coaches a decent game and USC finally gets fitting revenge thanks to the Bruins' atrocious offense and unmotivated defense.
Pac-10 record: 8-1
Overall record: 11-1
Trojans make the trip to Miami and make a bid for their 12th national championship.