Those oldies have lived through bowl games before, like the Rose Bowl in 2009 and the Emerald Bowl in 2010. But there won't be any more in their college future.
"Even though we can't play in a bowl game that doesn't really phase me. I'm over it now. At first I was like ‘dang I can't ever go to a bowl game again' but now I just got to go out there and play," senior safety Marshall Jones said.
The word "motivation" is like peanut butter to this group of Trojans. It's all-too-common after the NCAA sanctioned USC for two consecutive postseasons. What isn't known is what gets these 10 or so seniors to put their hearts and bodies on the line (literally with the senior defensive tackles) each and every week if there's no bling come January.
"Just our camaraderie as a team [gets us going]. The freshman and the young guys they want to send us older guys out with a bang so they're really working hard for that," senior receiver Brandon Carswell said.
"It's my last season so that motivates me enough. I got to go out on a good note," Jones said.
Players who all want to end on such a note include Jones, Carswell, defensive tackles Armond Armstead, Da'John Harris and Christian Tupou, linebackers Shane Horton and Chris Galippo, fullback Rhett Ellison and tailback Marc Tyler.
These players have experienced quite a bit of turmoil in their college careers. Some want that glory and respect to return to USC after riding through a transitory period in which they stomached an un-Trojanlike nine losses the past two seasons.
"This is my last year [and with] no bowl it's just about trying to win as many games as possible. It will be nice to win all games, just playing hard to get ‘SC defense back where it used to be," senior defensive tackle Da'John Harris said.
Now about those individual accolades. Obviously the NFL looms. You see league scouts at the Trojans' daily practices. It'd be folly not to think that falls into the minds of these athletes when some of them have worn shoulder pads since they were in a high chair.
"I would love to get there. I would love an opportunity to play there, so we'll see what happens," Carswell said.
Without getting into specifics, Harris put why this season was important to him rather simply:
"It's one more chance to make a name for myself," he said.
Around this time last year, seniors then said the same things about motivation. They looked to have the same energy and excitement waiting for season to start. But then on Oct. 2, the Trojans suffered their first loss of 2010 at the hands of Washington. And the lofty praise and talk of self-motivation came crippling down.
"We're like three or four steps ahead of where we were at this time [last year] so I don't see that [self defeat] happening," Jones said. "This is a different team than last year."
What makes it so different is probably this season's age. This group of freshmen has made waves throughout spring (with the early enrollee quarterbacks) and fall. And while the freshmen have a little wait until a bowl opportunity presents itself, they sure are curious now.
"They always ask us, ‘what are the bowl games like.' We tell them you have to practice the whole month of December but it pays off in the end," Jones said. "But the season is over in like November 24th or whatever, you have all December off. So you tell them you have to keep on working."
But is this group too young to learn how to shake off a defeat?
"With the guys that we have, I don't think our heads will be down at all, I don't think the momentum would change. We know that we do have some work to do, we know that we're a young team but I think we're just going to grow from it, if that does happen," Carswell said.
Former USC wide receiver Ronald Johnson recently made public comments about players losing momentum after each loss in 2010. But with the energy of this hyped recruiting class and the current seniors' vivid memory of last season, that momentum doesn't seem like it will have a seismic shift this time around.
"If we get that first loss, which I don't think we will but if it happens I don't see anything like that happening we'd just put it behind us and keep on going because we don't have anything else to play for besides just winning," Jones said.