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Games could break right for Trojans

October 06, 2008|Chris Dufresne

Given how precariously the game was sandwiched between Ohio State and Oregon on the 2008 schedule, USC Coach Pete Carroll now admits he had Oregon State circled all along on his watch-out calendar.

"I had a sense six months ago it was going to be a problem," Carroll said in USC's locker room after Saturday night's 44-10 victory over Oregon, which was not a problem.

The semiannual disaster trip to Corvallis, though, is a rearview memory now as the Trojans refocus on the rest of a season that still has "national championship" as a possible ending.

USC seemed to regain its balance while knocking Oregon off its Nikes, and now the Trojans begin the arduous, dirty-work climb up the polls.

Sunday was not a "moving" day in the rankings, as the schools ahead of USC in the Associated Press poll all won.

USC did not budge off its No. 9 perch in the USA Today coaches' poll and actually dropped one position to No. 8 in the Harris index.

USC's weekend victory, though, which included a tack-on, 59-yard scoring pass with 1:50 left from mop-up quarterback Mitch Mustain to David Ausberry, impressed Associated Press voters enough to bump the Trojans up one spot to No. 8 ahead of Brigham Young.

Really, what has the Mountain West done against the Pacific 10 Conference this year? BYU can lodge a complaint, but the Cougars last week moved up three spots without playing.

The combination of USC's remaining schedule, which includes teams with a cumulative 20-22 record, and impending kill-off games in the Southeastern and Big 12 conferences should have Trojans fans re-energized into thinking the Corvallis loss was more embarrassing than punitive.

The motto for USC from here on in is www . . . "wipeout wins, wait."

No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 5 Texas have a bake-off this week, No. 4 LSU treks forebodingly toward No. 11 Florida, and No. 6 Penn State faces a tough test at Wisconsin.

Oklahoma doesn't play No. 3 Missouri in the regular season, but the schools could meet for the Big 12 title. Missouri does play No. 17 Oklahoma State (this week), Texas and No. 16 Kansas.

No. 7 Texas Tech still has Texas and Oklahoma left to consider.

The right mix of USC wins and top-10 losses could have the Trojans back in the top five by Halloween.

Things seem to be breaking USC's way again. If you want to make a parlor game of the Trojans' remaining schedule, try to find the second loss.

Saturday, Arizona State. Dennis Erickson started out 8-0 as the Sun Devils' coach, but he's 4-6 in his last 10. Arizona State started the season No. 15 but is now 2-3 with quarterback Rudy Carpenter last seen leaving Saturday's loss at California on crutches.

Oct. 18, at Washington State. There will not be a repeat of 2006, when USC escaped with a six-point win. Cal scored 66 points in Pullman this year, Oregon scored 63 and USC will score how many points it takes to keep it ahead of BYU in the polls.

Oct. 25, at Arizona. Maybe the toughest game left, if only because Mike Stoops' teams have usually played USC tough.

Nov. 1, Washington. Waiter, check please.

Nov. 8, California. This may or may not be important, but Cal Coach Jeff Tedford is 0-6 in Greater Los Angeles.

Nov. 15, at Stanford. Remember the Alamo?

Nov. 29, Notre Dame. USC has taken six straight in the series, and the only game in which the Trojans didn't score at least 38 points was the 34-31 "Bush Push" thriller in 2005.

Dec. 6, at UCLA. Can't wait to see what UCLA's marketing department dreams up with for this one, but unless the Bruins come up with an offense, the Trojans should make it nine wins in the last 10.

Weekend wrap

Weekend shocker, or should we be surprised? A week after Fresno State painted the Rose Bowl red with a victory against UCLA, the Bulldogs lost at home, in overtime, to Hawaii. And so it continues. Fresno State takes on all challengers in nonconference play, makes some early national noise and then flops in conference.

The Bulldogs have not won even a share of the Western Athletic Conference title since 1999.

"This is as tough a loss as I've had since I've been here," Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said.

Weekend Shocker II: Army 44, Tulane 13. What? Army ruined Tulane's homecoming with an improbable win that included only five passes. It was Army's first win after scoring only 37 total points in four losses. After a 28-10 loss to Division I-AA New Hampshire on Sept. 6, Army Coach Stan Brock apologized to the U.S. Military, the Corps of Cadets and everyone else who watched the game. Saturday, it was Tulane Coach Bob Toledo with the mea culpa. Toledo: "I want to first apologize for our performance."

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