Robert Woods has taken a back seat to Marqise Lee this year. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
If Marqise Lee continues performing at his current level, the USC receiver could embark on a postseason awards swing that would take him to ceremonies from Florida to New York.
The sophomore, now firmly entrenched in the Heisman Trophy discussion, was announced Monday as one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to college football's top receiver. The winner is revealed at a December ceremony in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., a few days before the Heisman announcement in New York City.
And what of Robert Woods, the Trojans' all-time receptions leader?
The junior was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and All-American last season after catching a school-record 111 passes.
But he is not a Biletnikoff semifinalist this year.
Heading into Saturday' game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl, Lee has 98 catches, Woods 61.
UCLA Coach Jim Mora said Monday that Woods and Lee are "special," adding that Lee "could be an impact player in the NFL right now, not just a player."
Last week against Arizona State, Lee caught 10 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. It was his seventh game this season with 10 or more receptions and more than 100 yards receiving.
Woods had a season-low two receptions for minus-three yards.
It was Woods, however, who sprinted nearly 80 yards to provide a block on Lee's touchdown.
Though frustrated by his reduced role, the draft-eligible Woods has not griped.
"I'm fortunate to play with Marqise," Woods said after the game. "He's going to have great numbers. I wish I was making more plays, of course, but other than that I'm proud of Marqise making those plays."
Coach Lane Kiffin, the Trojans' play-caller, has said that he seeks opportunities for Woods. But he makes no apologies for trying to get the ball to Lee as much as possible.
Lee said Woods "gives up himself for me" by forcing defenses to account for him.
And if their roles were reversed?
"As long as we win, I don't care," Lee said. "If Robert's doing what he's supposed to be doing and I've got two catches and Robert's getting 15 catches being that guy, then so be it."
This will be Kiffin's ninth USC-UCLA game as a Trojans assistant or head coach.
Asked by the school's website if he had a favorite moment, he said, "Obviously, last year was pretty neat for us."
The Trojans defeated the Bruins, 50-0, at the Coliseum.
But he also pointed to 2001, former coach Pete Carroll's first season, when USC defeated the No. 20 Bruins, 27-0.
"We were just kind of getting going,"Kiffin said, "and it was the end of our season and we had started playing a little bit better and we were able to get them that day."