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It's a scene I've witnessed in person numerous times -- during spring practices in April, fall practices in August, etc. Only on this occasion, the Trojans were two days away from playing in a BCS bowl game.
USC's de facto postseason home games are becoming something of an annual tradition -- and it's kind of strange when you think about it. Seniors like Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing will graduate without ever leaving their home city for a bowl game. They change in their regular locker room, practice on their usual field -- but stay in a hotel for a week (the InterContinental Century City.)
Not that the Trojans are complaining.
"Of course it would be nice to go to South Beach or New Orleans and see new sights," said USC offensive lineman Jeff Byers. "But it's not like you're sitting at home in your apartment with your buddies. We're in a nice hotel. We get to go to Disneyland. Who else gets to go to Disneyland? The [Lawry's] Beef Bowl? The Improv? Those are great events."
Rose Bowl organizers go to great lengths to ensure the Trojans get a full-bowl experience, but for USC -- which played its last regular-season game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl as well -- it's really more like an extra-special home game.
"From a competitive standpoint, it's an opportunity to play a great bowl game of great magnitude in a home-field setting," said Carroll. "It's still exciting for us in every way. But it's different than [Penn State] leaving their part of the country where -- you're coming to Hollywood! It's a big deal."
The Trojans are 3-1 in the Rose Bowl under Carroll, beating Michigan twice and Illinois last season. While there's little question USC was simply better than those teams, you have to wonder how much of a benefit the Trojans do receive simply from the comfort and familiarity surrounding their preparations. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, whose team is practicing more than 20 miles south at the Home Depot Center, insinuated as much Tuesday.
"I think Southern California, playing a home game, hasn't had quite the logistics problems we've had," said JoePa. "We spend almost two hours a day in a bus getting to and from practice, which bothers me as much as anything."
That does sound kind of crappy. Then again, it was 34 degrees in State College on Tuesday.