During the 2007-2008 season, the Trojans football team had an incredibly rough trip to the mid-west when facing the Fighting Irish. Senior receiver Brandon Carswell recalls those five minutes of turbulence as if they were a fresh memory.
"The lights went off, the plane dropped, my head was on the ceiling, people were out of their seats, people were in the aisle, it was actually traumatizing," he said.
A majority of the playmakers for USC are young--as in they've-only-been-on-the-road-twice-for-the-Trojans'-two-road-tests-young. Nevertheless, some of the Trojan veterans have filled the freshmen in on that event which some said has forever made them afraid of flying.
"There has been some talks about some of the Notre Dame traveling, going there on the plane, it kind of shakes people up because it's such a long flight and the weather," defensive lineman Nick Perry said.
But Perry also said you can't prepare the freshmen for the flight, just as you can't prepare them for everything that comes with the USC-Notre Dame rivalry.
"We can only tell them what to expect we can't tell them much but to go out there and experience it for themselves. You have to be there to get a feel for what's to come," Perry said.
"They haven't experienced it, yet. They're pups, how could they know?" Carswell added.
What do these 'pups' know? They know that the rocky road trip in the '07-'08 season resulted in a win for the Trojans. They know that their last trip to South Bend, in the 2009-2010 season, USC also took home a win. Finally, this team understands that last season's loss needs to be avenged in order to salvage a season that has been high on expectations but inconsistent in terms of production.
Whether or not USC had that same trip to Michigan City, Ind. on Wednesday night isn't certain. But regardless of the amount of bumps in the air, they ought to expect a lot of bumps on the ground too. Adjusting to a new time zone, an electric atmosphere under the lights and the Trojans' first real rival of the current season creates a potentially intimidating environment for this visiting team.
Because of all these eye-widening factors, head coach Lane Kiffin has not added any more hype to this rivalry that spans more than 80 years.
"Because of our age, because we're so inexperienced and so young the last thing we want to do is build it up too much and you put too much pressure on them and they can't handle that.
These players couldn't handle the flight four years ago. But they at least handled the game.
So while this trip will have its bumps, both on the field and in the air, these players have become used to adjustment all season long.
Maybe the caution they've heard this week about the trip from their elders can lead to an outcome reminiscent of the past: getting a win on the road against a passionate rival, despite the intimidating odds.