While his 11-1 Trojans have been to the Rose Bowl in four of the last five years and hammered Big Ten opponents in each of the last two games in Pasadena, he insists they are thrilled to be back in the Rose this year.
USC will face 11-1 Big Ten champ Penn State on New Year's Day.
First of all, that's absolutely media driven, Carroll said of the perception that his team would have preferred to play in another BCS game after it was passed over for the national title game. You watch the interviews from our players and coaches, and we're pumped about this opportunity and excited about it and feel honored we have this matchup.
We're all pumped up about this, and anything you hear to the contrary, you can go ahead and know it is coming from somewhere else, he added.
Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno is equally excited. Though he did not mention it, the prospect of a Rose Bowl rematch with Oregon State, which Penn State clocked early in the season, did not appeal to Lion fans. But the Trojans, who have been one of THE powerhouse programs of the decade, have the entire Nittany Nation jacked.
We're delighted to have an opportunity to go out to Pasadena and play against a team with the caliber and tradition of Southern Cal, he said. We're excited. All of our fans are excited. My team is excited. We realize we have a very formidable challenge.
The two coaches took part in a joint teleconference Sunday night, shortly after the Rose Bowl matchup was officially announced. As is often the case in such settings, they took turns heaping praise on one another and the opposing programs.
To have a chance to work against and coach against Coach Paterno is a great honor, Carroll said. We're going to give him everything we've got because we know we are up against the best of all time.
Added Paterno: Pete's done a tremendous job. There are two or three young coaches out there who have changed the game of college football, and Pete has certainly been at the top of it.
Because of the tradition of the Rose Bowl and the caliber of the opponent, the soon-to-be 82-year-old Paterno said he hopes to coach from the sideline for the first time since a home win over Temple Sept. 20. Paterno had hip replacement surgery Nov. 23, and said he was able to get out of his golf cart and walk around at practice a bit Friday and Saturday.
I'm feeling good, Paterno said. I'm walking around pretty good. I think I'll be able to be on the sideline. I hope I will be. I'd hate to miss that experience of being there in the Rose Bowl and looking across the field and seeing those Trojans and Pete and the whole bit.
I may regret it, he added with a laugh, but I'm looking forward to it.
Carroll joked that while Paterno may be on the mend, the last time PSU and USC squared off in the Rose Bowl (in 1923), the respective coaches (Hugo Bezdek and Gloomy Gus Henderson) nearly engaged in fisticuffs before the game. He wondered if it might happen again.
I know you're a little under the weather and recovering, but I'm sure you still have a good left hand, Carroll said.
If you have to worry about my left, you're in real trouble, Paterno countered.