No. 7 USC Football Hosts No. 21 Calfornia In Key Pac-10 Battle

Nov. 2, 2008

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A pair of football teams--No. 7/6 USC and No. 21/22 California--in the thick of the Pac-10 race square off in the sold-out Coliseum. The Trojans remain high in the BCS standings, while the Golden Bears control their Rose Bowl destiny. USC has played Cal more than any opponent (this is the 96th meeting). The Trojans have won 4 in a row over the Golden Bears and 6 of the last 7. This is the third straight year that both teams enter the game ranked by AP (and the fourth in the past 5 seasons). For the second straight week, Troy is at home, where it has won its last 26 home night games. USC is 24-0 in November under head coach Pete Carroll, college football's winningest active coach (84.7%). Carroll has 30 wins over AP Top 25 teams. USC is coming off a huge shutout over Washington, Troy's third whitewash in its past 4 games. This is the 87th straight game that USC has been in the AP Top 25. The Trojans have had 6 consecutive seasons of AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl trips, Pac-10 titles and 11 wins. Once again, Troy is ranked in the Top 25 in every national offensive and defensive statistical category, including first in total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and pass defense. In fact, USC's scoring (7.1) defense is its best in 56 years, its total (211.6) defense average is its finest in 41 years and its pass defense (117.1) is its best in 34 years. USC has surrendered just 7 touchdowns in 2008. Standout Trojan defenders include Butkus Award candidates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing at linebacker (both are Lombardi Award semifinalists) and 2007 All-American first teamer Taylor Mays at safety, plus Fili Moala at tackle. On offense, QB Mark Sanchez remains the Pac-10's passing efficiency and total offense leader. The Trojan running game is led by TBs Stafon Johnson (he has 1,000 career rushing yards), C.J. Gable (coming off a 108-yard, 2-TD showing against Washington) and Joe McKnight. USC's leading receivers include WRs Patrick Turner (he's 12th among the school's career pass catchers and had a 100-yard, 2-TD game versus Washington), Damian Williams and Ronald Johnson. Veteran OG-C Jeff Byers, an Academic All-American candidate in his second year in the M.B.A. program, anchors an offensive line that has only surrendered 9 sacks. California head coach Jeff Tedford brings in a well-balanced team that can put points on the board, has one of the nation's top defenses and gets lots of turnovers. The Bears upset No. 23 Oregon last weekend. Sparking the offense is TB Jahvid Best, who is highly-ranked nationally in all-purpose running, kickoff returns and rushing. QBs Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore have shared time at the controls. TB Shane Vereen has been an effective backup for Best, TE Cameron Morrah is well-used as a receiver and C Alex Mack is among the game's top linemen. Leading defenders are ILBs Mike Mohamed and Anthony Felder, OLB Zack Follett and CB Syd'Quan Thompson. The game will be shown live nationally on ABC-TV. The Trojans and Bears also battle in men's water polo on Saturday on the USC campus.

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