No. 8 USC football team from the Pete Carroll era: The 2009 Trojans
Pete Carroll's 2009 USC football team was his last. Not because he got fired, but because he left to take another NFL Head Coaching job. The best part was that it was considered a 'down year' for Carroll. Yes--a 'down year' for Carroll was a nine-win season where he still finished ranked (22nd) for the eighth straight year.
A 'down year' for Carroll was a year in which he went up to Columbus and beat a top eight Ohio State team in their own crib. A 'down year' for Carroll still consisted of a win over a ranked Notre Dame team on the road and a bludgeoning of the sorry Bruins by 21 points. It ended with an Emerald Bowl win, too.
It put Carroll's success in perfect perspective. Even in a year where he didn't live up to his own expectations, he still had a good year by a vast majority of programs' standards, and continued to own his rivals.
Confidence within the program wasn't lost, either. The team moved up eight spots from the final poll in 2009 to 14 in the preseason poll for 2010 even when Carroll left. The Carroll era was just different.