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Southern Cal players are stars in L.A.

LOS ANGELES - Out here it seems that everyone has botox, is on a diet or has a reality TV idea.

Southern Cal quarterback Mark Sanchez throws the ball as coach Pete Carroll watches during practice Saturday.
Southern Cal quarterback Mark Sanchez throws the ball as coach Pete Carroll watches during practice Saturday.Read moreDANNY MOLOSHOK / Associaed Press

LOS ANGELES - Out here it seems that everyone has botox, is on a diet or has a reality TV idea.

So surely a film crew could do no worse than follow the Southern Cal football team through a season - off the field.

Because in L.A., what happens on the gridiron becomes runner-up to what happens in

da clubs.

This is a major metropolis that doesn't have a pro football franchise, after all. The Trojans, with their successes and matinee idol quarterbacks, have done their best to fill the void. In some cases, they are celebrities in a town already full of them.

"The great thing about being an offensive lineman is that nobody cares," USC guard Jeff Byers said. "You might want to talk to Mark about that."

Mark Sanchez is USC's starting quarterback. That's like being Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. Sanchez follows a long line of pretty-boy signal-callers under coach Pete Carroll. There was Carson Palmer, then Matt Leinart, and most recently John David Booty.

The 22-year-old Sanchez naturally downplays the lothario angle. A Google search says otherwise.

"I don't know about that," said Sanchez, who is single. "I don't know how to explain it."

To some extent, Sanchez may be guilty by association. Leinart's feats were legendary. But to fault a Southern Cal quarterback for having a prominent love life is like punishing a child for eating too much candy on Easter. As USC wide receiver Patrick Turner said, in perhaps the understatement of the year, "There are a lot of pretty women out here."

But it's not just about the ladies. It's about being where the ladies are. And often the most beautiful ones are at Hollywood premieres. This is a tricky subject, especially for Sanchez.

"I'm not going to say I haven't" been to a premiere, he said. "I've been to a couple. It's got to be through a relation that's OK with the NCAA. It just can't be somebody off the street saying, 'Hey, you're the USC quarterback, you can go because we don't do that for everybody.' "

It's good to know that the NCAA is cracking down on Hollywood premieres or butting in line at swanky Beverly Hills restaurants.

"You've got to make the reservations in advance and you've got to be a normal guy," Sanchez said with a straight face. "It's a tightrope walk. But this is the life I've chosen, and Saturdays make up for it."

Many of the Trojans downplay their status. But there aren't many programs that can call Will Ferrell a team mascot. The funnyman has teamed with Carroll for a few pranks. Carroll, of course, is a star in his own right. With his movie star looks, he could have had Tom Cruise's career - or Jimmie Johnson's.

Penn State has a star of its own in Joe Paterno. The difference is that Paterno never had a nose for the West Coast. The Nittany Lions have been portrayed as country bumpkins by some of the L.A. media. That's probably not fair, although Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor once called State College "too country."

"It's a little bit different out here," Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "But I think a lot of times people think we're from the Stone Age."

Some of the Lions were recognized on the streets of L.A. because of their outfits. You don't see many men wearing bearskin and walking barefoot in these environs.

In truth, Penn State players are as notorious in Happy Valley as the Trojans are in the City of Angels. Centre County police made sure of this.

"Sure, we're well known in State College, Pa.," Penn State safety Mark Rubin said. "But, at the same time, if your college town is Los Angeles, then you get more media exposure."

According to Turner, the Trojans and their social exploits aren't worthy of a reality show. "We've been to Hollywood, but we don't go out too much," he said. "It's overrated to me. It's just standing in line."