Sometimes a team's record doesn't indicate just how dangerous it is.
That was the case two weeks ago when USC lost to Oregon State, and at his Tuesday media luncheon, Pete Carroll said it will be the case Saturday when Arizona State comes to the Coliseum.
The Sun Devils (2-3) have lost three in a row, but Carroll said Arizona State is more like the team that went 10-3 and tied with the Trojans for the Pac-10 title.
"I think Arizona State is solid as can be in a lot of areas," Carroll said. "I know they haven't won their games the last couple of weeks, but they look very much the part of the same team they were a year ago."
Carroll has gushed about Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter's ability to move around on the field and use his good arm.
"Rudy is all over the place, throwing the ball everywhere," Carroll said. "He's just a really, really good player. This guy is going to be a good NFL player, and he's going to be a high draft pick.
"He's well-equipped. He's a good battler. He makes things happen."
Carpenter's made 36 consecutive starts at quarterback, a streak that could be in jeopardy due to an ankle injury.
If Carpenter is unable to go, the Sun Devils would turn to junior Danny Sullivan to make his first career start.
"This is what he's been working for — to go down and have your first start in a college game against USC is very challenging," Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson said. "There is no question about it, but I really like him.
"He is very competitive, and he knows what we're doing, so if that's the case, he will do a good job."
Carroll admitted to not knowing much about Sullivan, but he said defensive coordinator Nick Holt recruited Sullivan when he was in high school.
Still, Carroll and his staff are focusing on their own issues, like cutting down on penalties and maintaining the Trojans' focus on a team that appears, at least on paper, to be inferior.
"We're right in the middle of the conference right now," Carroll said. "I'm hoping that we're going to find out if we can elevate to the kind of level and consistency that we've played with for years around here."