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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Playing it forward and picking up the pieces

Chris Dufresne's five things to watch this week, including how USC reacts to the upset at Washington.

September 21, 2009|Chris Dufresne

Five things to watch this week in college football:

1Picking up the pieces in Los Angeles after a 16-13 loss in Seattle. Familiar script: USC loses to an unranked opponent and has to fight to get back in the Bowl Championship Series race. Sound familiar? It now has happened in 2003, '06, '07, '08 and '09. USC overcame the triple-overtime loss at California in 2003 to win the Associated Press national title but is now facing the prospect of a fourth straight year in which an unexpected defeat costs the Trojans a title shot. This is the perfect week to play Washington State, except the Cougars are the team with the one-game winning streak after an overtime win against Southern Methodist.

2Uh-oh, another "payback" game. Florida and Texas were tight and tentative in trying to put the retribution hurt on Tennessee and Texas Tech, with the Gators and Longhorns managing 10-point wins. This week, Penn State plays host to Iowa in Happy Valley with the unpleasant memory of last year's one-point loss at Iowa. The defeat spoiled another perfect regular season for Joe Paterno. Problem: Iowa is 7-2 against Penn State since 1995.

3California, here you come? Jeff Tedford's Golden Bears have supplanted (for now) USC as the Pacific 10 Conference's national title contender but put their undefeated season on the line in Eugene this weekend against Oregon. Cal is 3-0 after an important win at Minnesota and returns to the place where Tedford made his name as an offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Oregon has rebounded from an opening loss to Boise State with home victories against Purdue and Utah.

4The quarterbacks are already warming up their arms in preparation for Texas Tech at Houston. Texas Tech quarterback Taylor Potts, even in defeat to Texas, proved he is a worthy successor to Graham Harrell in a long line of prolific Red Raiders passers. Potts leads the NCAA in passing and has 12 touchdown passes in three games. Houston's quarterback, Case Keenum, ranks No. 4 nationally with 725 yards passing and seven touchdowns in two games.

5Fresno State Coach Pat Hill has never backed down from a schedule challenge, but maybe he should. His Bulldogs lost in double overtime to Wisconsin two weeks ago and are now recovering from a ferociously entertaining and hard-hitting 51-34 home loss to Boise State on Friday night. Fresno State's next assignment is a plane trip to play Cincinnati, which has emerged as the Big East's team to beat after a 3-0 start that includes a Saturday win at Oregon State. Oh, Fresno State closes the regular season at Illinois.

-- Chris Dufresne

chris.dufresne@latimes.com. twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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