This is old news for anyone that's followed the Trojans over the past few years, but Pete Carroll finally came out and said it. No one knows you better than your neighbors, and the struggles in conference are a result of an opponents preparation for something they've seen over and over again. It's a plug in of new faces in any given year, but it's the same system running the same attack at USC. A well prepared team, though lesser in talent, can neutralize the strengths of the opponent, and appear on an even playing field.
With no doubt, fans of the Empire expect lopsided victories in travels outside the Pac 10. The tension builds when play moves inside the conference, as typically the offensive output is lower and final scores often closer. If you're a gambling man, the best option would be to take the Trojans to cover the spread against out of conference opponents, regardless of the weight they may carry, and take the opponent to cover in-conference. Vegas continues to set the smaller spreads for out of conference play, when we know it should be opposite.
THE BCS EFFECT
You would think this reasoning holds true for every conference, feeding the "we beat up on each other" notion, but it's opposite when you look at the Buckeyes. Ohio State, like everyone else, will play some very competitive games against ranked opponents in the Big 10, but step outside the conference and it's no longer a match. For the Buckeyes, it's the total opposite of USC, as they get embarrassed by out of conference opponents with a national ranking. Since the Ohio State victory over No. 2 Texas in 2006, they've fallen victim to out of conference ranked opponents by these scores:
(2006) No. 2 Florida 41-14
(2007) No. 2 LSU 38-24
(2008) No. 1 USC 35-3
Two of those games decided the National Championship, and the game against USC is the only ranked opponent the Buckeyes have played outside the Big 10 during the regular season in 24 months, being one of only 3 BCS conference opponents (also Washington and Cincinnati) with a regular season date against Ohio State in the period.
What a difference a conference makes. The Big 10 has made Ohio State. The Pac 10 is breaking USC. The difference in the conference play of each program over the past two seasons is the difference between making a BCS title game appearance and not. The Trojans have finished unblemished outside the Pac 10, while dropping 4 games in conference during the period (5 including Oregon State in '08). Until the recent loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes had lost just once in the Big 10. If not for the September meeting with USC, despite the loss to Penn State, with the game being so close, THE Ohio State would have again been in the hunt to make their third consecutive BCS championship game appearance.