Posted by ESPN..com's Ted Miller
LOS ANGELES -- With Penn State's tumble from the list of unbeaten teams, a whiff of possibility wafted into the Coliseum before USC played host to California: The Trojans still might be able to work their way back into the national title race.
All they needed to do was stage a song and dance routine for pollsters with the Golden Bears underfoot.
They needed to post a few style points.
After his Trojans dominated Cal but only won 17-3, Carroll announced that he has a new least favorite term.
"That ain't going on around here," he said, speaking even faster than his normal 100 miles per hour pace.
"We don't do that crap around here. We don't think that way. That's not ever the way we think. I don't think about style points. I never have."
USC took over on downs on the Cal 21-yard line with two minutes left. It seemed like a perfect time to pad the winning margin with the game in hand.
But Carroll just ran the ball four consecutive times up the middle.
Carroll didn't see a need to put lipstick on this pigskin, though he admitted that with another touchdown "it would have felt a lot different."
"That ain't a winner's attitude," he said. "That ain't what a championship program thinks like. You don't think like that. I don't care about impressing anybody. We're going to try to play good football, do good stuff and win. And if they don't like it, I don't care. I could care less."
Carroll did seem like he cared when he laid into the BCS this week, saying the current process for selecting who plays for the national title "stinks."
"It's unfortunate that it is the way it is," Carroll said after the game. "I'm not going to campaign. The thing I fear is I sound like I'm bellyaching about it."
While Carroll dismissed the notion of style points, the concept wasn't completely foreign to his players.
Asked if he had looked up at the scoreboard and thought the Trojans needed to dump a few more touchdowns on Cal, receiver Patrick Turner said, "I feel you on that but we can only do what we can control."
Carroll might reasonably point out that USC did produce some style points vs. Cal.
The Trojans, owners of the nation's No. 1 defense, haven't allowed a touchdown in more than 10 quarters.
The Trojans have held their last four opponents to under 200 yards of total offense.
In five games in the Coliseum this year -- a schedule that included three ranked teams -- the Trojans have outscored their opponents 180-16.
Cal entered the game with the nation's No. 19 scoring offense (36.4 points per game) but scored only three points, its lowest output since 2000. The Bears previous scoring low this season is 24 points.
But pollsters probably want more than just great defense. They want spectacular -- dominating offense and defense -- particularly with the widely held view that the Pac-10 is down.
Carroll has always been a proponent of a playoff, but he hadn't previously lashed out at the process until the past week.
"I don't want to win some popularity contest," he said. "I want to win because we are capable of it."
The problem for USC?
There are plenty of reasons to believe the latter is true, but the former holds sway in the current format.