USC's 2011 season has been an undeniable success, the Trojans now just one victory away from finishing the year in the Associated Press top 10 and potentially starting next season even higher.
Spirits have clearly been raised from the start of the season two and a half months ago. But much of that can be erased with a loss to UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum, the Trojans say. Much of the progress that has been made over the last 11 weeks will be eliminated if USC gets upset by the Bruins.
"We've gotta play an exclamation point on this season," linebacker Dion Bailey said Thursday. "If we lose this game, our whole season goes to waste.
"We've been playing this whole year to get that double-digit win season and really show everybody that we're not slacking off, so if we go out there and we don't show up on Saturday, that's a whole waste."
A 9-3 season would still be a significant improvement over last season's 8-5 record, but the point stands: USC needs the victory to be able to truly build off the 2011 season.
It's not lost on Bailey, USC's leading tackler, that many judge an entire season's worth off the outcome of one or two games. He said before last week's game against Oregon that the Trojans fully understood the importance of pulling off that upset.
He also fully understands that Saturday's game couldn't be any more important from UCLA's perspective.
"Everybody has to win the big games," he said.