For a guy who says he never cares about the BCS rankings, USC coach Pete Carroll was quick to point out Sunday the sixth-ranked Trojans are not out of the national title picture.
"A lot of stuff happens down the stretch," Carroll said. "There are a lot of big games for everybody. We'll just see what happens."
Carroll never volunteered what USC's tough games would be down the stretch. Maybe he thinks it's 5-5 Stanford. Or 5-4 Notre Dame? Or 3-6 UCLA?
Florida coach Urban Meyer, who plays No. 24 South Carolina, No. 20 Florida State and possibly No. 1 Alabama, is probably thanking the BCS gods he doesn't face the gauntlet facing the Trojans.
USC (8-1, 6-1) might not be in the top five but it should sleepwalk its way into the mix while the Big 12 and SEC's elite eats each other up the next four weeks.
Maybe that is why Carroll was so relieved to defeat California on Saturday night, perhaps the only team capable of pulling off an upset in November/December.
He stressed out so much about the officiating during the game, he burned one timeout to complain about a penalty and then used one more to incorrectly challenge another.
But after reviewing the game films, Carroll was conciliatory Sunday night.
"I thought the guys called a really good game," Carroll said. "I went through the film both ways. They hit it and they were on it."
He conveniently said he did not see wide receiver Patrick Turner's 19-yard touchdown pass, where replays indicated he might have lost control of the ball.
"I talked to a couple guys who saw it and said they said the ball got to the ground, but he got control of it first," Carroll said.
USC needs to do something about its penalties. The Trojans rank 114 th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams with 8.56 penalties per game. The Trojans' penalty yards per game (78.67) ranks 118 th, the second-worst mark in the nation.
Carroll said some of the penalties stem from players trying to do too much.
"We're playing at frenzied pace," he said. "The guys are confident and at times going beyond what they need to do. Everybody's trying to do everything at times and it's more than we need. It's not affecting the end result but it could get us."
Another film revelation occurred Sunday when Carroll said he learned the offense played better and the defense worse than he thought during the game.
"We really gave (Cal) some chances and somebody would bail us out on defense," Carroll said. "We could play a lot cleaner and a lot better."
Freshman tailback Broderick Green announced he would transfer at the conclusion of the fall semester, possibly to Arkansas.
Green released a statement Sunday that cited family reasons.
"Because of unforeseen family health issues with my maternal grandmother who raised me and my mother, I have asked USC to grant me a scholarship release at the end of the semester," Green said.
But for several weeks, Green complained to his teammates that he was upset with his playing time. As recently as Tuesday night, he was seen telling a teammate he wanted to transfer because he did not like his role on the team.
Even Carroll conceded it was an issue. "I think the number of guys he's battling against was a concern in there," he said. "This is his choice."
USC REPORT CARD
RESULT: No. 7 USC 17, No. 21 California 0
RECORD: 8-1, 6-1
WEEK 9 GPA: B-
No interceptions for Mark Sanchez and few third-down conversions.C+
Some nice runs by Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight plus a fumble.B-
Did Patrick Turner actually catch that touchdown pass?B
Cal's new defense found ways to pressure the quarterback.C+
Put constant pressure on Cal quarterbacks and contained tailbacks.A-
Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing combined for 19 tackles.B+
Some highlight plays but a lot of Cal receivers were open too.C+
The punting game could be renamed the shanking game.C
Puzzling playcalling is overcome by superior recruiting.C-