For almost all of Pete Carroll's tenure at USC, the Trojans' defense has been the team's most fearsome unit. Yes, plenty of offensive stars -- including Heisman trophy winners Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush -- have led USC to becoming one of the nation's elite college football programs. But it's USC's defense that has set the tone and swagger for much of its on-field success, especially of late. Bigger, faster, stronger, more aggressive -- the Trojans have prided themselves on physically manhandling opponents, even the nation's best teams.
At FootballOutsiders.com, we use an evaluation metric called Program FEI, which measures a team's success over five-year spans, to project future year results and compare powerhouse program histories. Against the Program FEI's top 20 teams since 2001 -- the very best teams from the BCS power conferences -- Carroll's USC Trojans have a 35-6 record with an average margin of victory of nearly 20 points per game. Against ranked opponents in 2007 and 2008, USC surrendered fewer than 17 points per game.