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USC FYI

Carroll's standings-pat answer

October 20, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

USC's debut at No. 5 in the first Bowl Championship Series standings elicited a common response from Coach Pete Carroll on Sunday night.

"I'm lost for words," he said, sarcastically.

After routing Washington State, 69-0, on Saturday, the Trojans remained No. 4 in the coaches' poll, No. 5 in the Harris Interactive Poll but came up 10th in the initial computer component -- all of which are used to formulate the BCS standings.

USC is behind Texas, Alabama, Penn State and Oklahoma in the BCS standings.

The Trojans remained sixth in the Associated Press media poll behind the same four teams and Florida.

Carroll, as is his custom, downplayed the significance of rankings and standings in October.

But after learning that Ohio State, a team the Trojans defeated, 35-3, was fifth in the BCS computer rankings, Carroll apparently could not help himself.

"How does that happen?" he said. "Nice system."

USC will attempt to extend its winning streak to four games on Saturday when the Trojans play at Arizona.

The Wildcats, led by quarterback Willie Tuitama and wide receiver Mike Thomas, are coming off a 42-27 victory over California.

Arizona is averaging 40 points a game, but Carroll has been impressed most by a defense that is ranked 19th nationally, giving up 285 yards a game.

"They've transitioned from losing a lot of defensive starters and their numbers are great," Carroll said.

So are USC's.

The Trojans are first in scoring defense (7.8 points a game) and pass defense (136.5 yards a game), second in total defense (220.2 yards a game) and eighth in rushing defense (83.7 yards).

USC has shut out its last two opponents.

Asked whether it was the best defense he has coached at USC, Carroll jokingly referenced the BCS formula: "It's probably the best first half we've ever had. We may have to go to the computer to calculate our strength of schedule."

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Quick kicks

Junior Nick Howell, who started for the first time against Washington State, played "fantastic" at right tackle, Carroll said, and could challenge Butch Lewis for the starting job this week when Lewis returns from illness. . . . Carroll said starter C.J. Gable, who scored the final touchdown on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter, was in the game because redshirt freshman Broderick Green was "gassed" and needed to come out.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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