PALO ALTO — Freshman Tom Malone ranks as the top punter in the Pacific 10 Conference and USC's offense and defense are near the top in several categories.
But the punt return and kickoff return units hope to improve their conference-worst rankings today when the Trojans play Stanford at Stanford Stadium.
USC is averaging only 6.5 yards per punt return. Walk-on receiver Greig Carlson from Palisades High has provided sure hands on the 16 kicks he has handled, but he has yet to return one longer than 14 yards.
"My main job is to make sure I catch the ball -- that's why they put me back there," Carlson said. "Hopefully, this is a game I can show a little more of what I can do."
USC is averaging 16.1 yards per kickoff return. The Trojans, thanks in part to a defense that is giving up only 19.9 points a game, have fielded only 15 kickoffs -- seven fewer than the next-closest teams in the conference.
USC has not scored 40 points in three consecutive games since 1972, but the Trojans could equal that feat today against Stanford.
The Cardinal is surrendering a conference-worst average of 33.4 points a game. Stanford gave up 65 points against Arizona State on Sept. 28 and 41 last week against Oregon.
According to Stanford, the Cardinal is trying to win four consecutive games against USC for the second time in series history.
But USC maintains that three Cardinal victories -- in 1911, 1912, 1913 -- were achieved in rugby, not football, and does not count the games in its overall record or series record against Stanford.
USC lists its series record against Stanford at 53-24-3. Stanford lists it as 53-28-3.
Two Stanford players have ties to USC.
Freshman cornerback Marcus McCutcheon is the brother of Cleveland Brown defensive back Daylon McCutcheon, who played at USC in 1995-98.
Garry Cobb, a senior cornerback, is the son of former Trojan linebacker Garry Cobb, who played at USC in 1976-78 and in the NFL for 11 years.