SEATTLE - Another game already?
Around USC, people are still talking about last week's thrilling victory over Notre Dame, no matter how many times Trojans coach Pete Carroll tells players to forget about it.
"Pretty much everyone is asking me," USC receiver Dwayne Jarrett said. "But that's in the past. At least that's what we're told all the time by coach Carroll."
Although USC completes a brutal stretch of four road games in five weeks, the schedule might assist the No. 1-ranked Trojans today. They get out of Los Angeles and away from the Notre Dame afterglow that gripped the campus and play Washington, a team no one will confuse with the Irish.
"The Notre Dame game is one of those things I haven't thought about it unless I get asked," center Ryan Kalil said. "But I get asked a lot."
Although the Trojans are sequestered in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, Carroll doesn't want to totally endorse leaving home, because that goes against the traditional coaches' code.
"In one regard, it's good to get out on the road," Carroll said. "In another, it would be nice to have a home crowd.
"We talked about how this is a classic situation where all of the media is going to ask all of the questions about letting down the next week. We are going to try to show you that we can go the other way and we can perform better than you can imagine us to perform."
Although Carroll would never admit it, USC's schedule gets a lot easier beginning today. After grueling victories over three teams (Oregon, Arizona State, Notre Dame) ranked in the top 25 when they played USC, the Trojans enter the cushy phase of the schedule.
Washington (1-5) would be winless without a victory over lowly Idaho, and USC hosts Washington State and Stanford the following two weeks before traveling to face sinking California.
"Man, we need to come out and blow people out," USC receiver Steve Smith (Taft of Woodland Hills) said. "We've had enough close games already."
But even with players like Smith weary of the recent emotional finishes, Carroll worries the Trojans (6-0) will play down to the level of their opponent, which happened two weeks ago in a closer-than-expected victory against Arizona.
"We want to be hard to beat again, that is a big mentality for us," Carroll said. "But right now it is not showing up as clear as it has in years past."
Carroll craves a game like last year's 45-7 blowout of Arizona State, in which USC put together a complete performance. It could happen today. Then again, USC has dropped seven of the past 11 games at Husky Stadium.
The one Carroll remembers was a last-second 27-24 loss in 2001 during his first season. The schools' fortunes have changed drastically since. Back then, Washington was ranked No. 11 in the nation and USC entered the game with a 1-3 record.
That loss was Carroll's only other visit here and it still lingers.
"That one really hurt," Carroll said.
Today, USC figures to inflict the pain. This should be a game in which Matt Leinart erases those nagging doubts about his sharpness, and maybe even tailback LenDale White gets reintroduced to the offense after a one-week sabbatical.
Or maybe even tight end Dominique Byrd and fullbacks David Kirtman and Brandon Hancock will see a few passes? But let's not get too carried away.
"It hasn't been necessary in the games yet for that to happen," Carroll said. "(Byrd) is doing a nice job, he is blocking well, it just hasn't been a necessary part of the game. It is going to happen. It will pop up. I know he is probably a little bit frustrated by it. He will catch a lot of balls by the time the season is over."
Uh huh. Byrd caught 37 passes in nine games last season. This year, he has caught just 12 passes in six games.
That's a minor quibble, however, for a team seeking its third consecutive national championship. Just because the game of the decade occurred last week, USC needs a short memory or last week's dramatic victory won't matter.
"We created a lifelong memory but we wouldn't forget a loss at this point either," offensive lineman Winston Justice said.
Scott Wolf, (818) 713-3607