...Pete Carroll's coaching style than ability.
Since 2002, USC's post-bowl ranking hasn't been below fourth, which is outstanding. He recruits like a madman, he churns out NFL-level players (especially on defense) and wins big games.
But it's the little games that trip USC up. It's the unranked Beavers of Oregon, UCLA or Stanford that have stopped the mighty Trojans.
This is the price of the Pete Carroll swagger that USC carries. The swagger that attracts so many talented high school players, that allows them to roll into big games and that allows them to win national championships when they aren't even in the right bowl game has its penalty, that being they overlook weaker teams and trap games.
Not only are aware, they look them over, they seem to revel in the fact that they are USC and they can roll their helmet out on the field and some teams do fold.
When they get hit back, when someone stands up the Trojan Bully when they don't expect it, they crumble. Losing games happens to every team, but USC's losses in past years have just left people scratching their heads.
When OSU loses, it's to the top flight schools, but Tressel's even-keel approach has led to victory over legions of unranked opponents, and OSU is rarely in the position that USC finds itself in, defeated by a team they never gave a second thought to.
That being said, Carroll is still an outstanding coach. If anyone figures out a perfect coaching system, their team would look an awful lot like some of the USC teams we have seen in past years.
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