There's little doubt in my mind the Trojans will beat the Washington State Cougars tomorrow. They had better because Wazzu is terrible. However this game will probably tell very little about USC. Instead we have the past couple seasons and a few contests into the 2010 season to comprehend how this team operates.
Perhaps first and foremost attitude problems have been a mainstay for the Cardinal and Gold. I don't even need to talk about the off the field stuff but USC also devolved into a reckless unit under Pete Carroll particularly in the last few years. It became typical to see late hits both out of bounds and on quarterbacks. There were the multiple false start penalties during home games. The near fight with UCLA. Pete was cool with making it rain on the Bruins but complained to Jim Harbaugh what his deal was after Stanford stomped USC. Hypocrite. But what disgusted me the most was seeing players sprint for the locker rooms after losses. They didn't even have the decency to shake hands with the other team and demonstrate a shred of sportsmanship.
Attitude also breed entitlement. The Golden Child Joe McKnight and The Freak Everson Griffen were immensely talented prep superstars who underperformed at SC. But they had bad performances and transgressions constantly forgiven. Competition seemingly gave way to favoritism as McKnight and Matt Barkley were given opportunities when they weren't the best available options.
The 2010 edition of the Trojans seems to be headed in the right direction in terms of off field discipline. New athletic director Pat Haden and Lane Kiffin appear to be doing the right things and there's definitely a noticeable less Hollywood approach to the team. The home sideline no longer is crammed with celebrities and scores of boosters. It's reassuring to hear the compliance office is ever present around the team. That being said the results haven't shown on the gridiron. The Trojans are one of the most penalized teams in the country though a few flags from the Minnesota game shouldn't have counted. It's gonna take time and perhaps a few recruiting classes (that will be restricted and thus extremely carefully constructed) to change the culture inside and out.