|USC Legends News|
SEATTLE -- The names have changed, but Washington's attitude about USC hasn't. The UW football team respects the Trojans as much as ever, but the Huskies say they're no more confident now than a year ago.
A rise in confidence would be understandable, though. The Trojans lost 11 players to the NFL, including Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White. The USC offense is mostly rebuilt, with a large group of freshmen carrying the running game and a first-year starting quarterback in John David Booty.
Of course, there's still the receiving duo of Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith and a stifling defense, but some of the aura that accompanied the Trojans teams of the past two years seems to have faded.
Still, the Huskies (4-1 overall, 2-0 Pac-10), who will play No. 3 USC (4-0, 2-0) at 12:30 p.m. today at the Los Angeles Coliseum, say they don't necessarily feel that the Trojans are more beatable this season than last year.
"We wouldn't go in there to play if we didn't think we could win," Huskies defensive end Greyson Gunheim said.
"They don't have as much talent as they did before, but they're still a really talented team. They play really fast. We have to try to match that."
"I don't think I've ever gone into a game and not been confident," offensive guard Stanley Daniels said. "The last few years, we just lost. But we go into the game feeling the same way we always have, that we can win the game. It's just that this year, we're doing a better job of preparing. ... Our mindset going into the game is totally different."
There's no question that's true. Washington hasn't played USC when coming off of a win since 2003, the same season it last played the Trojans when the UW sported a winning record.
USC coach Pete Carroll certainly has seen a dramatic turnaround between this UW team and the one he played the last two seasons.
"A lot of the same guys have grown up and they know the system," Carroll said of the Huskies. "They look more physical, they're doing a good job in their offseason program. The offensive line looks very solid, they're running the ball tough. Isaiah (Stanback) continues to grow as a playmaker; he's finding his receivers well. The defense is playing really well, they tackle, they have guys in the right places and they're playing really hard.
"In an overall sense, everything's better. ... They're doing what good football teams do."
Still, there's no question that Washington is an underdog, made clear by USC being favored by 19 points, despite the fact that the Huskies have won three in a row. And why not? USC is riding a 28-game home winning streak and a 25-game Pac-10 winning streak.
But the Huskies say those numbers don't phase them.
"They're a good team, but every team in the Pac-10 is good," Stanback said. "We're not treating them any different. They're ranked high and it would be a great thing for us to get a win. But it's not going to change our whole program. We're not saying, 'This game is our whole season,' because it's not."
"We know they're going to come out fast and play hard right from the beginning and we have to match that," linebacker Dan Howell said. "But we've faced that before. We're a different team this year. We aren't going to fall apart if we get down, we've shown that."
Indeed, perhaps the biggest change in this year's UW team is its perspective. Washington realizes that one play doesn't decide a game, and one game doesn't decide a season.
Win or lose, Washington is still in position to have quite a turnaround. But that doesn't mean the Huskies are looking at today's game as a no-lose proposition.
"We're undefeated (in the Pac-10), and we want to stay that way," safety C.J. Wallace said. "We want to win the Pac-10 and go to the Rose Bowl, and to do that we have to beat USC. That's how we're looking at it."
"Every team is beatable," Howell said. "Last year's USC team was beatable. But it's about who plays better that day. And most days, they play better and that's why they win.
"I'm sure we're beatable, too, but I don't want that to happen."
at The Olympian ]
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