Given the results of last Saturday's games involving USC and Oregon State, Lane Kiffin has tried to get his Trojans on upset alert as they have prepared for the Beavers.
"It's been a concern since the end of that game," Kiffin said of the 24-21 win at Arizona. "As soon as these guys lost to Washington State, you've got to guard against that setting in with your players. It's a huge concern."
What has the first-year coach more troubled is how the team has practiced so far, as they head Saturday to a stadium where USC has not won since 2004.
"Just the intensity level," Kiffin said. "I don't know whether it is feeling good about themselves after a couple wins, not remembering why we've played well lately because we've practiced extremely well. It's very disappointing but still enough time for us to get right, get ready to go up there."
The coaching staff tried to address the issue Wednesday, but the energy level dissipated as practice went along, perhaps best illustrated by running back Allen Bradford's fumble and a Matt Barkley interception during the team period.
"We tried to do it today and for whatever reason, they responded early and faded on us," Kiffin said. "This is the time of year this happens to some teams as you get close to finals and you've been going for a long time. It's a challenge and one we'll have to figure our before Saturday."
One week after Arizona defensive ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed challenged USC offensive tackles, it's now time for the interior of the offensive line to face their biggest test of the season.
Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea is among the nation's finest defensive players, with 5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles this season.
Kiffin said the Bednarik Award semi-finalist, presented annually to the top defender in college football, has the ability to take games over like no interior lineman USC will face.
"He can be dominant," Kiffin said. "He's going to be the best guy we face all year, so we're going to have our hands full."
However, Paea is unlikely to be lined up next to fellow starting tackle Brennan Olander, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Olander leads the Beavers with 11 tackles for loss, but Kiffin said his absence doesn't make Paea any less disruptive.
"You still got to block him," Kiffin said. "He really is a force and we've got to know where he's at and deal with him all the time."
Surgery for Bryant
Cornerback T.J. Bryant needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. The only question is when he will undergo the procedure.
"It's always been like that since high school. It just hasn't gotten back to where I needed to be," Bryant said.
Bryant was set to meet with doctors Wednesday evening and Kiffin earlier said the junior could be operated on this week.
"I know I was going to get it done after the season," Bryant said. "Better sooner than later."
Bryant underwent a similar procedure in high school and is facingt a minimum three-month recovery.
Expected to challenge for a spot in the starting lineup, Bryant missed the Trojans' first two games after having his cheek broken by fullback Stanley Havili in an altercation during a voluntary summer workout. He has three tackles in two games but is ineligible for a medical redshirt this season.
-Kiffin said he was hopeful sophomore safety Jawanza Starling, who did not practice yet again, could return to action in the near future.
"He moved around some," Kiffin said. "We miss him."
-Receiver Brice Butler did not practice, leaving the Trojans so thin at the position, they used a walk-on quarterback for depth during the service period.