Have you thought much about a win would mean for the team and the program?
"It would be huge. We had a team meeting this week. Most players don't get a chance to play the #1 team in the nation. To beat them, it just, first, messes with them. They wouldn't get to go to the national championship. And it'd be huge for us. A huge game and a huge win."
Is this more about playing the #1 team in the country or playing your rival?
"It's both. It's a huge rivalry, and then to add something on top of it, they're the #1 team in the nation. A win would already be big because of the rivalry, but because they're #1 in the team, it'd be very big."
After the outcome of the last couple of years, why do you think you can win this year?
"I think because of how our team plays. We will perservere. They will definitely make some plays. But I feel our team can handle that. It won't be that one play will be the end of the game. We'll make some plays too. We just the type of character on this team that can play a whole game with them. A lot of teams come out in the beginning and have played USC tough, but can't s sustain it the whole game. I think we'll be able to."
How does your defense match up against their offense?
"They're going to come out and run the ball. We just have to tackle. I know they're going to attack us running. They attacked Notre Dame through the air, because they didn't respect their secondary. So they're going to try to run the ball."
Do you think they respect your defensive line?
"No. I don't think they respect our team. They don't respect us. We're going to have to change that on Saturday."
Did you watch the Notre Dame game?
"I stopped watching it when it was 34-10."
With Steve Smith returning, does that give them another weapon?
"Yeah. He's definitely another weapon. But they'll still run the same things they've run. They just have another player in there to run it, a person who was a starter for them at the beginning of the season."
Why do you think they don't respect you?
"I just don't think anybody does, as far as us playing against them. That will be our job, to take care of that on Saturday."
Is it anything you've heard them say that reflected a lack of respect?
"It just seems like everybody is talking about their national championship, and talking about whether they should be number one, focusing on things like that, rather than being focused on us."
Have you talked with the team about what USC has been able to do in the first half of the last two games between the two schools, and what you'd have to do to prevent that?
"Yeah, we feel like we have some different schemes this year that won't allow them to take advantage of us like they have in the past. Offensively they started out really good against us in the last couple of years. We think we have some stuff to stop that."
Why do you guys think you can be different than the other teams that have lost to them?
"Because I feel the character on this team will allow ourselves to play a whole game. I've seen a lot of team get in there with them and be tough for a half or three quarters, and then lose it. It all starts with them making a big play, and then it all starts to go downhill for other teams. I don't think we'll go down hill. I don't see it happening."
In watching tape of USC, do you watch the difference in their first half and second half?
"I see it more like, I see them make plays, and I see other teams start to feel like, 'Uh-oh, here they go.' More than like, 'We got the lead, we can win this game.' It's more like they're waiting for them to make a play. I think you have to come with the attitude that you're just going to make plays and not wait for them to make a play."
Their offense might have been too dependent on the big play, and has struggled to sustain drives. Have you noticed that?
"Most college offenses are going to be like that. It's difficult to have a 16-play drive. They (USC) is counting on throwing it out to (Dwayne) Jarrett and he's going to take it to the house. Or a screen pass to Reggie Bush and he's going to get a touchdown. It's tough when you make an offense have a 15-play drive. They're not going to score on you that much, having to do that. It definitely makes it tougher on them if you don't give up the big play."
How does it change your scheme when you see Reggie Bush line up out of the backfield like a wide receiver?
"Not much. He's out there as a receiver, you have to cover him like a receiver. You just have to line up and play defense against him."
Do you see him as the most dangerous offensive player on their team?
"He's a game breaker, if you let him take over the game, and you let him get outside of your containment. I think their best weapon on offense is Lendale White. He's going to be consistent in running up the middle. He's a good running back. I think he's going to have the most consistent game. Reggie Bush will beat you if you let him."
Where does Dominique Bird figure in to their weaponry?
"He's like a receiver. But we've faced good tight ends this year, like Alex Smith. Tim Day didn't get to play against us in Oregon. But we've played against guys that are athletic tight ends. I think we did good against them. It will come down to the safeties and the linebackers to cover him, and we'll be able to do that."
What is the task this week of covering Jarrett? Is it the toughest matchup for you this season?
"I don't think so. I don't think they're going to come out and throw on us. They may, but I think they're going to run. I think they think they're just going to run the ball on us all day."
Does it feel like a Trojan town or a Bruin town, or even a college town?
"It definitely doesn't feel like a college town. But I would say USC. It seems like a place that it sways towards who has won. Right now they're on top. I think they have the fans because of it. When I got here it was pretty neutral."
Are you worried about the time off?
How about timing?
"That's what we've been doing this week."
Do you think much about all the losses to USC?
"Not really. I just think about that I haven't beat them since I've been here. I definitely want to beat them before I leave."
How much of the experience of taking on Oklahoma, the #1 team in the country last year, contributes to this game? Does the team talk about that?
"We don't really talk about any of our games last year. I felt like this team would have played better in that game against Oklahoma. We came out and made some plays and we're in the game, and then kind of let it go. I think a lot of teams have been in that situation with USC this year. And I don't think this team is like that."
How close is this program to turning the corner and becoming one of the top teams?
'It's real close. The attitude here is - we just have to go do it. We have to win games like this, beat a good team, in a big game."
Is it strange to play in a home stadium where half the fans are cheering for the other team?
"I don't know. Actually I like playing on the road anyway. I like it when people are going against us. So, really the crowd doesn't matter that much. And I don't think it matters that much to our team either. Their fans are from here, from L.A., and they'll get their fans there and we're going to play a big football game."