Coach Pete Carroll typically avoids commenting about the Bowl Championship Series standings, let alone inviting questions about them.
But even Carroll could not help injecting some gallows humor Sunday after the Trojans dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 in the aftermath of their third shutout victory in four weeks.
"The more we win the worse we get," he joked.
USC, a 56-0 winner Saturday over winless Washington, maintained its ranking in the coaches' and Harris Interactive polls.
But the Trojans' weak Pacific 10 Conference opponents, coupled with the strength of the Big 12 and Southeastern conferences, hurt them in the computer component of the BCS formula.
USC dropped from sixth to 10th in the computers, as Texas Tech and Florida jumped the Trojans in the BCS standings to Nos. 2 and 5, respectively.
Carroll dismissed concern about the standings -- "I don't even know how to figure that out," he said -- but he acknowledged that this week's game against No. 21 California offers the Trojans an opportunity to prove themselves against a respectable opponent.
USC's defense remains the top-ranked unit in the nation, but the Trojans' three shutouts have come against Arizona State, Washington State and Washington, which are a combined 3-22.
"The real tests are the teams like the Oregons, Arizona, those kinds of teams that are putting up a lot of yards and points," Carroll said. "Cal's one of those teams."
The Golden Bears improved to 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the Pac-10 with a 26-16 victory over Oregon.
The win moved the Golden Bears back into the top 25 -- they are 21st in the Associated Press media poll, 21st in the Harris Interactive poll and 22nd in the coaches' poll.
Carroll did express concern about the Trojans' continuing penalty problems. USC was flagged 10 times against Washington, the third time this season that the Trojans were in double figures for penalties.
Penalties cost the Trojans in their loss at Oregon State and could cost them again if they continue unabated.
"The wrong one at the wrong time . . . can be devastating," Carroll said.
USC (7-1, 5-1) vs.
California (6-2, 4-1)
Saturday at the Coliseum
5 p.m., Channel 7