Jeff Baca spoke to us this week at the press conference.
Q: So Jeff. This is your… fifth.
JB: fifth. Yes, sir.
Q: does this feel differently? I mean it’s got to feel a little differently because there’s something not on the line for the game.
JB: yeah, definitely. It feels a little different. PAC-12 South title. It’s a big game for us. A little excited.
Q: everybody likes to say “treat every game the same.” Is it possible to do that this week?
JB: there is. We prepare the same. Just like we prepare for any other opponent.
Q: how do you do that?
JB: stay focused. Stay concentrated. Really just have a great week of preparation.
Q: is it a case in the locker room where if you hear guys talking about the consequences of the game, you have to say, hey…
JB: yeah, for big games like this you have to break people down a little bit. And bring them back to doing the same thing that we’ve been doing that got us to where we’re at right now. That’s going to be a real big focus this week.
Q: how much does this eat at you as a fifth year senior… that you’ve never had a win against USC…
JB: this is big. This is a big week. That’s going to be one of the challenges for me personally. To stay focused. To stay calm. Do exactly what I’ve been doing this whole year and to not do anything different.
Q: it’s easy to say that you want it to be the same. But how hard is it to actually do that?
JB: it’s difficult. Very difficult. Like I said, it’s something that we’re going to have to focus on and talk about as a team. Try to keep people grounded. Just getting excited for the game. Just keep grounded.
Q: with this coaching staff, does it feel like the expectations of what you guys can do is different than before?
JB: we’ve put ourselves in a great position. I don’t know if the expectations are different. With what we’re doing this year and the success that we’ve had, we’re in a great position now.
Q: how different was the offseason for you versus the previous 4 years?
JB: it’s a lot different… ah, I’m not sure if it’s “a lot different”. But I think, for me personally, going into my senior year… there’s a lot more focus. A lot more concentrated. I knew this was my last go-around. Not that I didn’t take advantage of anything before. But I really tried to maximize of my opportunities.
Q: for you guys that have been here a long time, what would it mean to be able to win this game with these stakes?
JB: it would be huge. To win a PAC-12 South title. It would be a pretty big time for us.
Q: A lot of freshmen are going through this for the first time. What kind of advice are you giving them?
JB: I haven’t really talked to them much yet. But as the week goes on and progresses, I’m going to have to keep them grounded. They’re going to get hyped up and going to be excited about this game. That’s just the nature. Have to stay grounded and focused.
Q: can you remember the first SC game?
JB: I was as hyped as ever. I really was. I grew up in this rivalry. I’ve been going to games since I was a little kid. Super excited. It was a long time ago actually.
Q: is there anything that you can do to prepare… you can talk as much as you want but once you get out on the field and you hear the crowd and see USC on the other sideline… is there anything you can do to prepare for that moment?
JB: I don’t know if you can. The emotions are going to be running high. But like I said, if we do a great job in a week of preparation, we can let it go on Saturday and just have a great time. Play great.
Q: for the guys that were here last year, how much does the taste of that game last year play into… puts into your mind going into this game this week…
JB: a lot. But at the same time, it’s something that it can’t let it affect us in what we’ve done this year. And the success that we’ve had this year. To keep doing what we’ve been doing. Because that’s what really gotten us to where we’re sitting right now. And the chance to play this game. For the stakes. But if we just continue what we’re doing, day in and day out, and the preparation that we’ve been doing all week, all year, we have a great chance to play a great game.
Q: what do you think of Brett and the leadership that he’s had this whole season and how he’ll be on Saturday in first start in this big rivalry?
JB: Tremendous. This’ll be the first big game of the year. It is a rivalry game. We played Nebraska and they’re ranked. I think he’s going to do great. I don’t think anyone’s worried about him at all.
Q: the freshmen offensive linemen who were from out of town like Simon Goines… is there an element there that you want to impress on him on how important this is? Or do you not?
JB: I think you can tell... I think you can feel it [rivalry importance]. I don’t know if you can go across the country and ask kids the big rivalry. Is there a football rivalry in LA? Yes. UCLA-USC. I don’t think you can say here’s this big rivalry to them.
Q: with all this stuff that you had to deal with.. with coaching changes… all this stuff… is the intensity still there for you in this rivalry? All the emotion… you guys have had so many things to take you away. Now you’re actually focused on winning, getting things done. Playing for something. That rivalry. That intensity.
JB: coach Mora did a great job coming in and really upping the intensity of this program as a whole. Like you’re saying, you have to treat this game like any other game. Going out there and executing and having a great week of practice. That’s really what we’re focused on.
Q: have you watched SC at all?
JB: I have a little bit. I’m actually headed right out after this. I’m going to have a couple meetings with my guys. ‘Cause we don’t have class today.
Q: you had to have watched the Oregon game a little bit.
JB: I think we were playing or getting ready to play. Yeah, I couldn’t catch it.
Q: do you have an impression of them at all so from what you’ve seen?
JB: they have a lot of good players. I know that. I think that goes without saying. But I think they’re a good football team. We have to come out and have a great practice. And after that, really, if we prepare like we’re supposed to prepare, we’ll have a great game on Saturday.
Q: now that you’re a couple days removed from Pullman Washington, playing in that cold, do you think it impacted how you guys played? Was it a different game playing in that type of weather?
JB: I don’t think it impacted us much to be honest. At least from an offensive lineman’s standpoint. I don’t think it really was that cold if I’m being honest with you. If you’re on the field as much as we were on the field. It wasn’t really that cold.