Tuesday Practice: Pac-10 Ahead

With two blowout victories over Virginia and Ohio State under their belt, the Trojans now head into Pac-10 play, which has been very challenging the past two seasons.

Trojans Open Pac-10 Play

With blowout victories over Virginia and Ohio State, the top-ranked USC Trojans will surely breeze through the Pac-10 Conference, which looks to be having a down year, right?

As Lee Corso likes to say, "not so fast my friend." While USC has been dominant in nonconference games in the Pete Carroll era, the Trojans have lost two conference games in each of the past two seasons.

"We look at this game knowing that it's Pac-10 time. Pac-10 games have always been challenging and difficult," Pete Carroll said. "It doesn't matter which week or who you're playing or where you're playing, they're just hard, difficult challenges."

The Trojans know how tough it is to play in Corvallis, escaping with a 28-20 win in the fog in 2004 and losing to the Beavers 33-31 in 2006.

"We've had difficult times with Oregon State in years past, in particular playing there," Carroll said. "We have a great respect for their program. Coach Riley does a great job schematically."

Carroll said the familiarity of playing conference teams is what makes running the table in the Pac-10 such a tough task.

"The challenges are that the coaches know other coaches. The players are not uncomfortable playing in the settings," Carroll said about playing conference games. "There's a familiarity there. It's normal for Oregon State and all of the teams in our conference to play USC. It's not normal for Virginia or for Ohio State to do that. Sometimes that generates a different performance because of that."

Carroll also isn't ready to buy into the talk that the Pac-10 is having a down year.

"I don't think that the conference is down at this point," Carroll said. "It doesn't look like that to me. I think there was a weekend when a lot of teams got beat. We'll see what happens as the season goes on."

No matter what the perception, the Trojans have a challenging Pac-10 road ahead of them that starts Thursday night at Reser Stadium.

"It's a championship opportunity for us to go up and get the Pac 10 underway," Carroll said. "We'd love to play a nice football game and get out of there with a win and get on back home."

On the Turf

In an effort to familiarize the players with the playing surface at Reser Stadium, the Trojans practiced on the artificial field turf at Loker Track Stadium on Thursday.

USC has played on grass in their first two games, so Carroll wanted the players to get a feel for the artificial surface.

"The kickers have been kicking on it," Carroll said. "The only factor over the years was when we went back and looked at it, our kickers had struggled a little bit on the turf when we transferred from grass to the turf.

"You guys don't maybe remember this, but I think we had had three losses on the road at one time, all on turf fields, all where we missed a field goal and an extra point. It was obvious.

"Now that we have the field over here at the track stadium, we prepare on it. So that's been the only factor. Other than that, it's not an issue for us."

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