USC Football Opens Pac-10 Play At Oregon State

Sept. 21, 2008

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It's the start of Pac-10 play for the top-ranked Trojans, who begin their quest for an unprecedented seventh straight league crown. Although USC holds an overwhelming lead in its series with Oregon State, Troy's last 3 losses to OSU have come in Corvallis (in fact, USC has lost in 2 of its last 3 visits there, including a stunner in 2006 in USC's last game in Corvallis). It's a rare Thursday night contest for the Trojans (but they are 4-0 in such games). USC--winner of its last 7 games and last 15 September games--has posted 6 consecutive seasons of AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl trips, Pac-10 titles and 11 wins. Both teams are rested, having byes last weekend. The Trojans started their 2008 campaign in impressive fashion, with dominating wins at Virginia and over No. 5 Ohio State. USC's Pete Carroll is college football's winningest active coach (84.8%). Troy sports a veteran, stingy, ball-hawking defense--it ranks in the national Top 10 in every statistical catergory--led by Butkus Award candidates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing at linebacker and Thorpe Award nominees Taylor Mays (a 2007 All-American first teamer) and Kevin Ellison at safety, plus forceful DT Fili Moala and always-around-the-ball LB-DE Clay Matthews. QB Mark Sanchez--the Pac-10's most efficient passer--has already thrown 7 touchdowns and has earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors following both of his 2008 outings. USC's corps of versatile tailbacks features regulars Joe McKnight (coming off a 105-yard outing versus Ohio State), C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson and Allen Bradford. Troy's much-improved receiving corps includes the likes of WRs Damian Williams (he had 2 TD grabs versus the Buckeyes), Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton 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 given up just 1 sack to date. After dropping its first 2 games this season, Oregon State bounced back with a big victory over Hawaii. Beavers head coach Mike Riley is a former USC assistant. OSU's pass-happy offense, which in nationally ranked in pass offense (tops in the Pac-10) under the direction of QB Lyle Moevao, features some dangerous players like WRs Sammie Stroughter and Shane Morales and the 5-7 Rodgers brothers (WR James and TB Jacquizz). The Beaver defense, guided by S Greg Laybourn and CB Brandon Hughes, has given up just 154 yards passing per game. The game will be shown live nationally on ESPN.

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