September 2, 2008

Practice Insider: Trojans move to No. 1

The internal expectations and belief have been there for a while now.

Many of the Trojans thought they were the best team in the country already, and now after dismantling Virginia 52-7 in Charlottesville, the pollsters agree.

USC jumped two places in the AP poll, moving ahead of No. 3 Ohio State and No. 2 Georgia. In the USA Today coaches poll, USC leaped over Georgia. All three teams won in the opening week.

Still, the news was met with a predictable wave of indifference at USC practice Tuesday evening.

"We think we are the best team so we don't care where we're ranked," C.J. Gable said. "We know we're better than anyone else."

USC head coach Pete Carroll told Gable and the rest of the team during a meeting earlier in the day.

The Trojans discussed it, and now, they're ready to move on.

"Wherever we were ranked before, we didn't talk about it. We're not going to talk about it now," Carroll said. "It doesn't mean anything until we do something, and it takes a long time to do something in college football.

"I sincerely don't think it matters - unless you let it matter."

In the AP poll, USC received one more first-place vote than Georgia and six more than Ohio State, and in the coaches poll, the Trojans three more first-place votes than Georgia and 13 more than the Buckeyes.

"It doesn't feel uncomfortable," Carroll said.

USC received 21 first-place votes, 16 second-place votes, 16 third-place votes, 10 fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes in the AP poll, according to Pollspeak.com.

"I guess they don't think that we're that good," Gable said of the fourth- and fifth-place votes, "but when you watch us play, we show that we're the best."

Now that the Trojans are atop the two major polls, the team will have to deal with even more attention.

"It's what we come here for, to be ready and prepare for that type of scrutiny as the No. 1 team in the nation early in the season," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "It doesn't mean anything too us now, but we realize things will only get more magnified and exciting for people on the outside.

"For us, nothing changes."

Still, there are worse things than being the top-ranked team in the country.

"I'd rather downplay No. 1 than No. 3 I guess," Carroll said.

Best Week Ever

In addition to the team jumping to the top of the polls, one specific Trojan got recognized for his role in USC's 52-7 win Saturday.

Sanchez earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for a career-high 388 yards.

"It's really a testament to a great running game, and the receivers making some big-time catches, bailing me out on the sideline quite a few times," Sanchez said. "Then, the o-line - with that kind of time you better make the right decisions. It's really for the team even though they named me."

Sanchez completed 26-of-35 passes on his way to three touchdowns and just one interception.

Extra Points

Vidal Hazelton (ankle) and Marc Tyler (ribs) did not practice Tuesday after injuries suffered at Virginia.

Rey Maualuga, who suffered cramps during and after Saturday's game due to dehydration, said Vicodin could've been the cause.

Maualuga suffered a broken finger in the week leading up to the season-opener, and before the game, he took two pills for the pain.

"I've never done it before," he said. "I felt woozy before the game. I threw up my pregame meal. Every time I drank water, I was throwing it up."

He practiced Monday with his finger heavily wrapped and padded.

• On one of the final plays of the day, freshman Matt Kalil hyperextended his left knee. It's the same knee Kalil had surgery on prior to arriving on campus.

He left the field on the back of a cart.

• Linebacker Michael Morgan suited up for the first time since dislocating his shoulder.

• Carroll said Luthur Brown's scheduled to practice in an unlimited capacity Wednesday, pending final word from team doctors. Also, Chris Galippo could be back practicing in a limited role sometime next week.

• Former linebacker Dallas Sartz watched practice Tuesday.

• Some players addressed UCLA's victory of Tennessee on Monday night. Carroll called it a "great win," and Sanchez said he felt for Bruin quarterback Kevin Craft, whom he got to know over the summer.

• Carroll said the staff would begin making calls to recruits Tuesday night after practice. Coaches are scheduled to get out on the road beginning Friday.


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