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PASADENA, Calif. -- First of all, USC coach Pete Carroll admits the Trojans didn't distinguish themselves in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi.
"We curled up in the fourth quarter," he said. "We sucked in the fourth quarter."
But, he noted, his team just whipped the Nittany Lions 38-24 after leading 31-7 entering the final frame.
"We gave them a chance to keep the score close, but it really wasn't that close of a football game," he said. "With all due respect -- I think they're a terrific team -- but we ran away with it."
And Carroll -- and his players -- also think this: "I don't think anybody can beat us."
In other words, as happy as USC was with winning another Rose Bowl, the program is still smarting from its exclusion from a chance to prove itself the nation's best team.
"I feel like we can beat anybody in the country," receiver Patrick Turner said. "We wish there was a playoff."
Carroll was quick to point to the Pac-10's redeeming bowl season. After being maligned much of the year, the conference went 5-0 in bowl games, beating four ranked teams and teams from four other BCS conferences.
The Pac-10 should end up with four teams ranked in the final top-25 poll.
"It obviously shows the regard for the [Pac-10] schedule wasn't proper, was not right, was not accurate," Carroll said. "I know [the bowl record] is a pretty cool fact when you're comparing stuff right now. It's interesting."
There is the chance that the Trojans will get some sympathy from AP voters, who have the option to rank them No. 1.
"I hope this helps whoever is out there in a dark cave doing all the BCS math," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "I hope they watched this game."
Or, as safety Taylor Mays said: "Vote for us!"