Underdog USC

By Adam Caparell - October 26, 2007

Anyone remember the last time USC was an underdog in a Pac-10 game? Try seven years ago in their regular season finale of Pete Caroll's inaugural season in L.A. Well that 45-game streak comes to end Saturday when the Trojans - three point underdogs - head north to Eugene where high-powered Oregon awaits in a BCS make or break game for both squads.

But don't count on Carroll playing up the underdog card any, even with his Trojans playing in hostile Autzen Stadium that will surprisingly host its first ever matchup between two Top 10 teams. Carroll had no idea Las Vegas had his team pegged as the little guy this weekend. Nor did he care.

"I couldn't even tell you because I couldn't have told you that we weren't that in the past," Carroll said. "That means nothing. I mean, that means absolutely nothing. I'll never mention it and I'll never bring it up and if you guys didn't bring it up, I wouldn't even know. So I guess not."

The Trojans find themselves in a tough spot Saturday. Not only are they still looking to find consistency on offense, but the Trojans will have to contend with one of the most potent offenses in the nation, led by quarterback Dennis Dixon who has surprisingly garnered more Heisman talk this season than John David Booty, who won't be starting under center as he still nurses a broken digit.

Many are speculating the Trojans will have a tough time with Dixon this weekend considering he draws some comparisons to Vince Young - and we all know how much trouble USC had with Vince Young. Carroll, however, doesn't see it.

"Well, I don't think anybody is like Vince Young," Carroll said. "There's nobody that's ever been that fast, that big, that strong. He ran through everybody.

"Dennis is not that kind of a runner. Dennis is not like Jake Locker. This is a guy that runs with quickness and speed and finesse. Locker was a brute. And then you get to the other guy, there's nobody like him. You know, he's just way off the charts, because he was so big and fast that people couldn't even budge him, you know and he would run through tackles and things. He's a different style guy."

So for those worrying about Dixon running right over the Trojans, Carroll advises you relax. And for Trojans fans worried about their team's outside national title hopes - USC sits at No. 12 in the latest BCS standings - history is on your side.

Nov. 17, 2001 was the last time USC was not favored to win a conference game. And all the Trojans did that day was blast UCLA 27-0. Back to the present, USC is getting healthier and more confident after a few weeks of struggling to beat teams they should have blown out. Carroll can feel it.

"I like the way we're feeling more push from the guys and the competitive side of the roster like we've had in the past," Carroll said. "We like that feeling and we'd like a lot of guys playing and a lot of guys battling. We've been surviving like that for the last month, and I think we're ready to turn that corner."

Weekly Picks

Last Week: 2-3 | Season: 18-22

No. 25 Rutgers (+6) over No. 6 West Virginia
Rutgers has been running the ball very well and has some confidence after its win last week over USF at home. They'll be able to run the ball on the Mountaineers and I think that although their defense is susceptible, they'll do enough to come away with a win. You're going to see a lot from both running backs and a lot of points. Rutgers has to keep the Mountaineers under 30 - they've only lost once in seven years when they score at least 30.

No. 9 USC (+3) over No. 5 Oregon
If there's a team with enough speed on defense to keep Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart in relative check, you'd think it would be USC. They're getting some of their best personnel back onto the field. Oregon's going to rack up some yards and points, but the Ducks can give them up with the best of them. I think USC runs the ball very well in this one and pulls out a big win. Haven't felt this good about themselves heading into a game since Washington State.

No. 7 Arizona State (+3) over No. 18 Cal
How's that for respect. The Sun Devils are underdogs at home, against a lower ranked opponent, one that's on a two-game losing streak. The balanced offensive attack of Arizona State can get the job done over a shaky - to say the least - Bears defense. Arizona State can create a few turnovers and Cal has done a good job of relinquishing the ball these past few weeks. If they keep Justin Forsett from going crazy, they should be in good shape.

No. 9 Florida (-8) over No. 20 Georgia
Florida's got too much talent not to beat the Bulldogs as Urban Meyer looks to become the third coach in Gators history to beat Georgia his first three times facing them. Andre Caldwell is healthy and back in the mix and as long as Tim Tebow's bum shoulder doesn't hold him back too much, the Gators will be fine. Plus, how does Knowshon Moreno - the Bulldogs only featured back now - respond after a huge game last week? Florida's probably not going to be able to run the ball again, but at some point they have to get their running backs in the mix or Tebow is going to keel over from pounding he takes. I'd be shocked if he carries the ball 15 times this week.

No. 1 Ohio State (-3.5) over Penn State
It's going to be low scoring, physical football game with a big emphasis on the run. And who does that favor? The Buckeyes. Too good of a defense with an offense that can exploit the Nittany Lions with some big plays. Interested to see how Todd Boeckman does in his first hostile environment, but Ohio State gets the job done. But it'll be close.

Posted by Adam Caparell at 06:14 PM on October 26, 2007

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