Tape It Up: USC: Booty Back

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USC: Booty Back

John David Booty has missed the last three of USC's games with a broken middle finger, bowing out to backup Mark Sanchez. In that time, the Trojans have snuck by Arizona, blown out Notre Dame and lost last week to Oregon to knock them out of the national championship picture, and most likely the Pac-10 race, for good. Now that Booty is healthy and ready to start on Saturday, it's up to the senior to use that healed hand to pick up the pieces of this not-so-untouchable-anymore USC team and try to make something out of the rest of this season.

USC head coach Pete Carroll said after Thursday's practice that Booty had a solid week and that even after his few weeks off, the senior is ready to jump back in where he left off. Well, maybe not right where he left off, since that would put the Trojans back on Oct. 6, when Booty threw four interceptions in the second half of a mind-boggling loss to Stanford.

Sanchez has not looked awful this season, completing 60 percent of his passes for 665 yards with seven TDs, but the problem is his five interceptions, which are a mark of poor decision-making and inexperience. Booty's 12:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't much better, but Carroll has faith in the senior's ability to step up and lead his team through the season's four remaining games.

And let's remember, Oregon State is no slouch team. After beating Cal on a last-second mishap by the Bears' inexperienced backup quarterback, the Beavers are on a three-game winning streak. And this is the same team that beat USC 33-31 last season to snap the Trojans' 27-game conference winning streak. This week would be an excellent time for Booty to have a breakout game and put together something that might scare conference opponents down the stretch.

Booty may be feeling better, but offensive tackle Sam Baker is definitely feeling worse. Baker will miss the game against Oregon State with a hamstring injury, leaving freshman Butch Lewis to start at left tackle, again. Offensive guard Chilo Rachal also missed practice time this week with tightness in his calf, but should be okay to play.

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