Just about all the quarterback talk at USC this week centered on Washington's Jake Locker and how he was expected to put his last performance behind him when the Trojans play the Huskies on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Matt Barkley hopes to do the same.
USC's quarterback ranks 14th nationally and second in the Pacific 10 Conference in passing efficiency, but the sophomore has had two passes intercepted in each of the last two games.
Those mistakes, Barkley acknowledged, could result in defeat if the pattern continues.
Barkley has yet to face a defense as good as sixth-ranked Nebraska's, which rattled Locker into a four-for-20, two-interception passing performance two weeks ago. And Barkley won't go up against one on Saturday: The Huskies rank eighth in the conference in total defense, ninth in scoring defense.
Barkley sat out last season against Washington because of a shoulder injury, but he watched from the sideline as interceptions, fumbles and penalties contributed to a Trojans loss.
Barkley and Locker know each other from having attended workouts and camps together. Before the season, they also were part of a Pac-10 contingent that traveled to the East Coast for a media blitz.
"He's a real competitor and it's clear on the field," Barkley said Thursday. "Maybe not in his numbers right now, but I know that's eating him alive because he wants to be the best.
"He did tell me a story, though, that if he could rewind he would have stuck with … being a safety and hitting people. I didn't know that about him before."
Bradford sits out
Tailback Allen Bradford did not practice because of tightness in his back, but he said he'd be ready to play Saturday.
Bradford, listed with Marc Tyler as the co-starter on the depth chart, was dressed for practice but was told by running backs coach Kennedy Pola to take mental reps instead.
"Coach P said, 'My Dad always told me there's two things that brings a man to his knees: A toothache and his back hurting. Anything else a man can handle.' "' Bradford said. "So I just chilled and stayed in it. I'm still preparing."
A different atmosphere
The Trojans won but did not impress in their home opener against Virginia on Sept. 11, committing 13 penalties for 140 yards.
USC had only five penalties playing in front of a sparse crowd at Washington State last week, but Coach Lane Kiffin is concerned about his players' concentration as they return to the Coliseum for first time since their 17-14 victory over Virginia.
"Going up [to Pullman, Wash.] you're trying to make sure your guys are motivated in front of 20,000, or whatever there was on for a game that didn't have much spotlight on it," Kiffin said, adding, "You come to the Coliseum and obviously [there's] a lot more attendance.
"It's completely different that way. You've got to make sure that we're not too excited and having issues like we did last time we were home in the first quarter."
Defensive end Wes Horton remained listed as limited, Kiffin said…. As part of the NCAA's mandate that USC disassociate itself from Reggie Bush, workers removed a mural from the school's sports information office that featured the cover of every Sports Illustrated magazine on which a USC athlete, coach or alum had appeared. A new mural, minus images of Bush, was installed. Similar murals had previously been replaced at the Galen Center, the football coaches' offices and in the basement of Heritage Hall, a school official said.