Trojans have averaged better than 35 points per game the last three seasons.

Aug. 30, 2005

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Here's a scary thought for the college football world: Southern California coach Pete Carroll believes the Trojans will be improved on offense.

That's difficult to fathom, considering USC scored seven touchdowns and rolled up 525 yards in overpowering previously unbeaten Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl in January to secure its second straight national championship.

The Trojans, who open the season Saturday at Hawaii, have fielded one of the country's top offenses each of the past three years, averaging 38.2 points in going 13-0 last season; 41.1 points in going 12-1 two years ago, and 35.8 points in going 11-2 in 2002.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart returns along with USC's five leading rushers and four top receivers.

Little wonder Carroll feels the way he does.

"This is the best group we've had based on the experience and the big production from the receivers and the running backs and, of course, the quarterback," Carroll said Tuesday. "I think the continuity is very special. We have Matt at the helm, and the offensive line intact."

Among the other returnees are Heisman finalist Reggie Bush and LenDale White, a potent 1-2 punch at tailback; wide receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett; and tight end Dominique Byrd.

"They might be the best offensive team I've seen physically," Hawaii coach June Jones said on a conference call.

Jones said former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville told him recently he hoped USC didn't bring its mascot, Traveler, to Hawaii because "he might die from exhaustion."

Traveler, a white horse, gallops down the Coliseum sideline whenever USC scores.

"I'm glad we don't have to go against them - that would be a headache," defensive end Lawrence Jackson said of the USC offense.

Center Ryan Kalil said he has no doubt the USC offense will be improved.

"Especially in the run game," Kalil said. "I think we're going to do a better job of coming out earlier. We're definitely a finishing team. We're a lot more confident offense than last year, a lot more experienced offense."

Kalil is one of four returning starters in the offensive line from last year. Right tackle Winston Justice was a first-stringer in 2002-03 before sitting out last season because of a student conduct violation.

"I think I'm a lot better as a player," Justice said. "The whole offensive line has improved as a unit. I agree with the center - the offense might be better. I think the sky is the limit."

Carroll wouldn't say the defense would be improved - no surprise since star linemen Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson and standout linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Matt Grootegoed have to be replaced.

But Carroll did say this will be the fastest USC defense since he arrived.

"We are excited about it and we are going to need it," the coach said. "Speed is always essential for a terrific defense, but more than that speed can cover up for errors and issues that come up when guys are not doing the right thing.

"I am hoping that the speed of this defense will make a difference for us."

Carroll said he isn't concerned regarding motivation.

"It is so common for people to think that when someone accomplishes something that they are going to become complacent," he said. "I don't feel like that in anything we have done or anything our players have done.

"We champion the whole concept of competition. We keep everyone at the tip-top of their game or they lose their spot. I can't see any sign of that. I think probably the opposite has happened. We're more driven than ever."

USC is listed as a 34 1/2-point favorite over Hawaii, but Carroll said he's not concerned about overconfidence, either.

"That's always a question," he said. "We always respect everybody. We know that the game can beat you. It's always an issue. It has been addressed. It's important to me. From the first game on last year, we were challenged."

Regarding Hawaii, Carroll said: "We are challenged by scheme (run-and-shoot), the expertise of their staff, their ability to play well at home. We are going on the road and it is a naturally most distracting environment you can be in. We are going to paradise to play football."

Kalil said there's no reason to be concerned about the potential distractions.

"If there is any sightseeing, it'll probably be after the game," he said. "We do such a great job when it's business time."