USC has placed itself in a great position to run the table in the Pac-10 after winning a huge Ohio State game in its second contest of the season.
Well it should.
Last year, the Trojans beat the Buckeyes 35-3 in Week 2 at the Coliseum and appeared to have passed their toughest test of the season with ease.
Following the victory, USC was ranked No. 1 and had no true Pac-10 threat that stood in the way of an undefeated season and a ticket to the national championship. After all, the conference was supposedly in a “down year.”
The rest looked easy.
After riding high for a week, the Trojans lost 27-21 on the road in their next game to an unranked Oregon State team led by then-freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers’ 186 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The story on USC’s website read: “Trojans Stunned.”
It was shocking for everyone, to say the least.
After an awful first half in which the Trojans found themselves trailing 21-0 heading into the third quarter, USC fell short in a late rally.
It was a disappointing loss following one of USC’s biggest regular season wins in recent seasons.
Enter the 2009 Trojans.
There are many similarities between last season’s victory over Ohio State and this season’s.
The win over the Buckeyes was once again huge — maybe even more meaningful considering this matchup was in Columbus and Matt Barkley proved he’s not your typical freshman quarterback.
And although the Pac-10 is stronger this season and USC has three tough opponents on the road in Oregon, Cal and non-conference foe Notre Dame, the Trojans have arguably already defeated their toughest opponent of the year.
Just like last year, the Trojans will open Pac-10 play on the road following their big win over the Buckeyes.
Just like last year, they will be facing an unranked opponent against whom the Trojans are favored by 20-plus points.
And just like last year, the expectations of players, coaches and fans for the team couldn’t be higher.
But USC’s staff is hoping that unlike last year, the Trojans will not have a letdown.
“I didn’t do a good enough job last year,” USC coach Pete Carroll said of preparing his team. “We didn’t play as well as we could have [against Oregon State]. And hopefully we’ll capture what it takes and do well by this time.”
This time, the Trojans face the Washington Huskies.
And this time, the Trojans won’t embarrass themselves.
Here are my three reasons why the 2009 Trojans won’t suffer the same fate as the 2008 team.
1 . This game isn’t being played in Oregon.
It’s no secret that the Trojans have had trouble playing in Oregon throughout the last several years and last season was no different.
In fact, losing in Oregon is nothing new for USC.
In my three-plus years as a student at this university, the Trojans have yet to win a game in the Beaver State.
The 2006 team was upset by the Beavers, 33-31, in Corvallis. In 2007, the Trojans fell in Eugene, to the Ducks, 24-17. And then there was last year’s debacle.
For some reason or another, the Trojans have failed to show up when they’ve traveled to Oregon in recent years.
Luckily for them, this game is in Seattle.
2 . Last year’s letdown.
If there’s any positive the team can take out of last season’s loss to the Beavers, it’s that it won’t make the same mistake. Carroll said he has used last year’s loss as an example to keep his team on its toes.
“I think it was that obvious that we could [look at last season’s loss],” he said. “[We] didn’t have that example going into that game last year.”
This time around, Carroll can literally show his players how a team can’t afford to lose focus following an emotional victory as last year’s squad did at Oregon State.
All week long, the coach has been saying his players have to respect the preparation process for every single matchup, whether they’re playing Ohio State or the Little Giants.
3 . The numbers game.
Every statistic favors the Trojans here.
The Huskies are coming off the first 0-12 season in Pac-10 history. And although former USC assistant coach Steve Sarkisian has taken over as their head coach and quarterback Jake Locker is healthy, Washington isn’t expected to contend this year.
Additionally, Carroll owns a 7-1 record against the Huskies — USC hasn’t lost a game against Washington since his first year on the job in 2001.
Since that time, the Trojans have outscored the Huskies, 282-112. That’s an average score of 40-16 in favor of the Trojans each game.
All signs are pointing toward a USC victory.
And the Trojans hope those same signs will continue pointing toward an undefeated season after Saturday.
“Soft Hands” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or email Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.