Talent stacked two or three deep at nearly every position. Every player back who scored a touchdown in the 55-19 title-game rout of Oklahoma. The toasts of the Los Angeles. The Southland’s proxy NFL team. College kids whose 1 p.m. scrimmage today at the Coliseum is expected to attract 50,000 fans. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 What possibly could bring down this program? What could keep coach Pete Carroll & Co. from terrorizing college football for years to come? Enemies from within, that’s who. College football history is replete with examples of dynasties weakened, even destroyed, by bad behavior inside those programs. To wit: Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma program was wrecked by his own players, whose out-of-control behavior (allegations of gang rape, shooting firearms in the football dorm) led to his departure and several years of the Sooners as also-rans. To wit II: A rising SMU program was given the NCAA “death penalty” for a batch of recruiting violations and never really recovered. Summarizing the life cycle of big-time programs, it runs something like this: Traditional football power hires new coach who is given a mandate to bring back the glory days. He recruits harder and perhaps with more emphasis on raw talent than social refinement. Choir boys don’t win football national titles. Program rises, interest explodes. Big games, big money come rolling in. Alumni hang around the team even more, eager to “help” football stars and be seen with them. Players already impressed with themselves feel even more entitled, perhaps untouchable. Legal troubles begin. NCAA violations begin cropping up. Coaches choose not to look, or hope it’s not as bad as they fear, feeling the pressure to keep winning. The crash. A major scandal comes down, the faculty goes nuclear, the media condemn, the president reacts. The coach is forced out and a new guy is hired, assuring everyone he will recruit only choir boys. The choir boys begin losing regularly, the alumni get antsy, school officials feel pressure to see the program rise, they fire the guy who cleaned house and hire a guy who recruits anybody he can get eligible. Repeat. USC is showing signs of flirting with that slippery slope to scandal. A review of incidents since the 2004 Rose Bowl. nTackle Winston Justice is charged in March 2004 with three misdemeanor counts of “exhibiting a replica firearm,” a pellet gun he “flashed” at a fellow student. Charges are dropped, but USC suspends him for the 2004-05 school year. (Justice is back and is running No.1 at tackle.) nTailback Hershel Dennis is the subject of a sexual assault investigation last August. Two other USC players are at the same address but are never publicly identified. No charges are filed, but Dennis is suspended four weeks for breaking team rules and loses his starting job. nCornerback Eric Wright is arrested in March on suspicion of sexual assault. A total of 136 Ecstasy pills are found in his apartment. He leaves the school before a disciplinary hearing is held. nTight end Dominique Byrd sustains a broken jaw when struck by teammate Steve Smith. Byrd loses 33 pounds while his jaw is wired shut. Byrd shrugs it off as a “family situation that hit the newspaper.” nAt a party in March, incoming USC linebacker Brian Cushing punches a friend of incoming USC quarterback Mark Sanchez. Orange County law-enforcement officials say Cushing could be charged with misdemeanor assault, but the victim doesn’t press charges. nDuring the first full week of summer drills, with players sequestered in campus dorms to reduce the chances of off-campus trouble, a water fight spins out of control. The L.A. Daily News quotes an unidentified player as saying, “People were wrestling and went through walls. There were holes in the walls. It was crazy.” Carroll comments on the incident by telling the Los Angeles Times, “That’s kind of a boys- will-be-boys deal. Living together, there’s a little bit of `Lord of the Flies’ going on.” To his credit, Carroll rarely is flip about bad behavior or allegations of it. After the Hershel Dennis incident, Carroll last year said, “It amazes me that issues continue to come up in this regard. God, man, I’m on it constantly. It’s everything to me. I’m really disappointed that we’re talking about this.” Carroll seems to be acting proactively now. A great idea, considering USC’s players often are treated with the fawning defer ence of rock stars. Considering his team plays in a major media market and is closely scruti nized. During the first week of practice this month, Carroll brought in a female motivational speaker, Lakita Garth, to talk to his play ers about situations of sexual risk, as well as the topic of vio lence against women. Chris McFoy, the Chino High School alumnus who is begin ning his fourth season in the USC program, said Carroll has devoted more time on “how to conduct ourselves” each year that McFoy has been on campus. “That’s something he always harps on,” McFoy said. “Things that have happened in the past … trying to stress the fact that we need to show class wherever we are, and (that) we’re like everyone else.” McFoy concedes temptation is omnipresent for USC football ers. Financial, social, sexual … violations of NCAA rules – or the laws of the land. “Obviously, the more games you win, the more people try to take you down,” he said. “To withstand that temptation makes you better as a person. You want to protect your team no matter what happens. You could (break rules), and they find out and you’re out for the season, and that could hurt the team. “Coach Carroll works that into our consciousness: got to focus on schoolwork and football and stay out of trouble.” He certainly appears to be try ing. Even if some of it goes in one set of ears and out the other. Unless Carroll didn’t make clear that smashing up a dormitory might be construed as “trou ble.” So, the Trojans are off and run ning again, and it will take a great effort by some outside force to slow them. Or one or two well-publicized self- inflicted wounds. Carroll doesn’t want to see the day once defined in the comic strip “Pogo” thusly: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” The Trojans could be on top for years. If they can survive the perils from within. Paul Oberjuerge’s col umn appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at paul.ober [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LOS ANGELES – On the surface, times hardly could be better for USC’s football Trojans. Two-time defending national champions and the overwhelming No.1 in the first Associated Press poll, released Saturday.