USC's Confidence Sky High As Season Winds Down
Nov. 11, 2002
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. - Southern California is sure it would be a fine representative of the Pac-10 Conference in the Rose Bowl.
There's just one problem: for now, Washington State is in the way.
Being selected for a Bowl Championship Series game would be an acceptable alternative for the Trojans if that's the way it must be.
Yet, until USC is officially eliminated from winning the conference, the team is still aiming to be in Pasadena on New Year's Day.
The Trojans routed Stanford 49-17 on Saturday to maintain slim conference title hopes. One more victory by first-place Washington State or one loss by USC (7-2 overall, 5-1 Pac-10) would eliminate the Trojans.
Coach Pete Carroll refuses to think about where his team will play in the postseason. He sure likes what the Trojans are doing on the field, though.
'We're poised to do something good here,' Carroll said.
USC moved up two spots in The Associated Press poll to No. 8 with the victory Saturday. That still leaves the Trojans five spots behind the third-ranked Cougars, who beat Oregon at home to move up five places in the rankings.
'It doesn't matter,' USC receiver Keary Colbert said. 'At the end of the month it will matter. We can't control (Washington State's) games. We can control our games.'
The Trojans, coming off a bye week, made some mistakes early in Saturday's game. Stanford had won the previous three meetings by a combined 11 points.
USC was determined to stay on the roll it started last month with wins over California and Washington at home, and at Oregon. The Trojans' only conference loss was by three points in overtime at Washington State on Oct. 5.
'We're very happy,' linebacker Matt Grootegoed said. 'We have to keep on not giving up anything. Step by step, our goals are going to be met.'
The Trojans finish the season with three difficult games - home against Arizona State, at UCLA and at home against Notre Dame.
'Each game in the last four games has to have a story,' Carroll said. 'We've played about as tough a schedule as you can play. (The bowl scenario) is not, in my mind, anything to talk about yet until we're finished. But our style, we're getting more difficult to deal with.'
Quarterback Carson Palmer insists he must play even better in the stretch run. And that's coming from a player who's already performing superbly.
Palmer threw four touchdown passes in the win over the Cardinal, giving him 13 in his past three games. His four TD passes broke a school career record, giving him 61 to surpass the mark of 58 set by Rob Johnson.
That's not good enough for the perfectionist Palmer, who expects his team to score on every offensive series.
'I just want to be perfect,' he said. 'I expect to be perfect every time. I expect to be undefeated. I expect to lead this team to victory every time. But as long as we're winning, I'm happy.'