After going virtually nonstop since the start of training camp in early August, USC finally gets an open date this week.
The Trojans, who remained seventh in the polls after their 30-3 victory over California, will be off today and then over the weekend before beginning preparations for an Oct. 17 matchup at Notre Dame.
"I love that we're at the bye," Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday.
Carroll expects the return of several players to make the Trojans stronger by the time they meet the 4-1 Fighting Irish.
Wide receiver Ronald Johnson, who suffered a broken collarbone on the last day of training camp, will practice Tuesday. The speedy junior did agility drills last week and proclaimed that he would definitely play against Notre Dame, providing freshman quarterback Matt Barkley with a proven deep threat.
Defensive end Armond Armstead also could return from a broken foot that has sidelined him since early in training camp, though it remains to be seen how much of a workload he can endure.
Weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who sat out the Cal game because of a high ankle sprain, is another player who will benefit from the extra week.
Carroll said safety Jawanza Starling, receiver De'Von Flournoy and offensive tackle Kevin Graf, all freshmen, will get plenty of snaps this week.
On the rise
After shutting down Cal and running back Jahvid Best, USC's defense improved its already impressive national standing.
The Trojans are giving up only 8.6 points a game, third-best behind Nebraska (7.0) and Florida (7.3).
The Trojans are fifth in rushing defense, giving up 64.8 yards a game, and fifth in total defense (238.6).
Perhaps most impressive: The Trojans are the only team among 120 in the Bowl Subdivision that has not given up a touchdown pass.
"We've always been confident in the fact that we were going to come into this year and, regardless of who left, we were going to play solid defense," middle linebacker Chris Galippo said.
in the moment
Carroll gushed after the victory over Cal that Barkley was playing "as good of football as anybody we have ever had, already."
Asked by a reporter Sunday if his assessment might have been a byproduct of euphoria over the victory, Carroll said that the coaching staff had confidence in Barkley, trusted him and, though he was not a finished product, expected him to be able to do everything other Trojans quarterbacks have done.
"There's probably a little euphoria in there too," Carroll said chuckling.
Upon their return from Berkeley on Saturday night, the Trojans were unable to complete a surprise visit to tailback Stafon Johnson in the hospital. "The buses were on the way from the airport, but he had had a pretty long day and they weren't able to get him awake. . . . So we turned around and headed back to campus," Carroll said. . . . After committing 13 penalties against Washington State, the Trojans drew only five flags against Cal. They also improved their third-down efficiency, converting six of 15 opportunities -- a step forward after going a combined three for 19 in the previous two games.