The Pete Carroll era was one of the best ever for USC football, if not THE best ever. It's a run that very few, if any, in all of college football history have been able to go on. Carroll was at SC for nine years, and in those nine years went on a seven-year tear where he finished in the top four of the country every single year. He won a couple of National Titles in that time, and went to three.
Not to mention, he went to a New Year's Six Bowl at the worst every single year in that stretch. He won every single one of those Bowl games except one, and even that one was a National Championship. He still got to a National Championship for a third straight year, and won 34 straight games to get there.
When deciding what the very best teams were, it can be tough. There were seven truly elite years to try to rank, and even one of the years Carroll didn't go to an NY6 Bowl was still a good season. Heck, many people think that if the College Football Playoff was around then, Carroll would have even more than two Natties on his resume. The worst year, however, is easy to pick out.
No. 9 USC football team from the Pete Carroll era: The 2001 Trojans
Pete Carroll's first USC football team went just 6-6. They made the Las Vegas Bowl, and didn't win it. It is the only year Carroll didn't finish the year ranked. Why it sparked hope within the program, however, was because three of the losses were against top 12 teams, and each of those three losses were by four points or less.
Every single loss they had was by five or fewer points except the Notre Dame loss. And sure, the loss to the Irish was tough, but it wasn't necessarily a blowout (11 points) and it was on the road. SC showed plenty of flashes in Carroll's first year, and was ready to try to turn that corner the very next year. (Spoiler alert: They did turn that corner the very next year).