NCAA : Thanksgiving Football

NCAA : Thanksgiving Football

Thursday's College Football TV Capsule

Opening Line: Southern Cal by 3.

Series Record: Southern Cal leads 14-9.

Last Meeting: 2006, Southern Cal 28-21

Last Meeting: 2006, Southern Cal 28-21

Southern Cal is just 2-4 against ranked Arizona State teams. ... The Trojans lead the Pac-10 in passing defense (95.8) and total defense (267.9 yards per game). ... Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll is 22-0 in November. ... Trojan QB John David Booty is 7-0 as a starter against ranked teams. ... Arizona State has lost seven straight games to the Trojans. ... The Sun Devil defense has forced a turnover in 12 straight games. ... WR Rudy Burgess is one of only three active FBS players and one of only 14 all-time to top the 1,000-yard mark in rushing, receiving, and return yardage. ... Arizona State is third in the Pac-10 in passing offense (261.9 yards per game), and total offense (426.5 yards per game).

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Re: NCAA : Thanksgiving Football

What bettors need to know: Southern California at Arizona State
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ASU smelling roses

Arizona State hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl since 1997, but with two games to go they are in pole position to get there. The Sun Devils face defending Pac-10 champions USC on Thursday knowing that a win will guarantee them at least a share of the conference title and a bowl berth.

"I told them that I hoped that I could take them to places like this, where they would have this opportunity, and it's here," first-year head coach Dennis Erickson told The Associated Press. "It's going to be fun for them, and it's fun for me to watch them react to where they're at right now.

"Now, playing USC, I don't know how much fun that's going to be."

A win would not only put ASU in the Rose Bowl, but also keep it in the running for the national championship game. The Sun Devils are currently sixth in the BCS standings; a victory over USC could see them move up the list.

Arizona State’s players are excited at the prospect.

"Fortunately for us, we're going to get a chance to be the national game on TV that day and play in front of pretty much the world, really, or the United States, actually,” quarterback Rudy Carpenter said.

A loss wouldn’t eliminate the Sun Devils from the Pac-10 title race, but they would need both USC and Oregon to lose again to keep them in contention.

Trojans’ recovery

An ugly five-game stretch in the middle of USC’s season threatened to put it out of contention, but the Trojans have since bounced back to win two straight. The program now has a shot at a record sixth-consecutive Pac-10 title.

USC’s problems started with a loss to 40-point underdog Stanford and continued with narrow wins over Washington and Arizona – teams the Trojans were expected to dominate. Then, a 24-17 loss to conference rivals Oregon seemed to signal the end of their season.

Injuries played a big part in both losses. As soon as the Trojans started to get fit, their performances improved. They got starting quarterback John David Booty back from a broken finger to play in the last two games (both wins), and four of their five starting offensive linemen also returned.

"We look better," USC coach Pete Carroll told The Oregonian. "We look more confident. We look stronger. We're playing faster. It's clear. We can see it. Where that might have happened in the middle of the year, that we kind of get going, it's happened a little later."

While that turnaround has come too late for USC to have full control over its destiny, it has come in time to leave it a chance at the title. The Trojans need to win their final two games over Arizona State and UCLA, and hope that Oregon drops one of its last two contests.

"I think we have had a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of turnovers and we haven't capitalized in certain positions,” cornerback Terrell Thomas said. “But we're still the same football team. We're trying to finish out, so the world will know we're still USC. I think we will be the best team when it's all said and done."

Hard hitter

USC tailback Chauncey Washington had the best outing of his career in the Trojans’ last game, a 24-17 victory over California. He led his team with a career-high 220 yards and a touchdown, doubling his previous high of 119 yards set last year.

USC coach Pete Carroll says he will continue to give Washington the ball.

"We've been wanting Chauncey to be the energy of the offense," he told AP. "The last couple weeks, he's been feeling it. You could just tell he was on fire, and there’s no way we should take the ball out of his hands."

Washington, who leads the team with 748 rushing yards and nine TDs, loves to wear down defenses with his physical play.

"I go out there and punish people," he told the Daily Trojan, USC’s student paper. "I make people feel my pain without getting in trouble."

Washington says that hitting people with the force he does outside the stadium would probably get him arrested.

Last season, Washington was the difference in USC’s 28-21 win over Arizona State. He gained 64 yards on 10 carries in the fourth quarter and provided the game-winning touchdown in an extremely close game. Carroll expects more of the same this week.

"He's in great shape for this late in the season," the coach said in the L.A. Times. "He's physically fit and really fast. It's not too much to expect him to play a big role in this game and do the same kinds of things."

Head to head

The Trojans have won the last seven meetings against the Sun Devils by a combined score of 274-141, covering the spread in five of those games. But USC has struggled against ranked Arizona State teams, posting a 2-4 record against ASU squads inside the Top 25.

The over is 4-1 in the last five games between these teams in Arizona.

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(11) U-S-C (8-2) at (7) Arizona State (9-1)

GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked USC Trojans will play on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1938, as they travel to the desert to take on the seventh- ranked Arizona State Sun Devils in Pac-10 action from Tempe. A lot is at stake in this game, as Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils are sitting atop the conference standings with a 6-1 record. ASU's lone loss came on November 3rd at Oregon (35-23), but the team rallied with a 24-20 decision over UCLA in the Rose Bowl a week later. The Trojans are just one game back in the standings at 5-2 and the team has posted two straight wins entering this contest, including a 24-17 victory at California on November 10th. There is plenty to play for in this game, as the Pac-10 title and subsequent BCS Bowl bid are still up for grabs. The Sun Devils will close out the regular season next week against Arizona, while the Trojans will host UCLA. USC holds a 14-9 edge in the all-time series with Arizona State and has won each of the last seven meetings.

While not the offensive juggernaut the nation has come to expect with USC, this year's offense is anything but stagnant. The Trojans have certainly been able to move the chains (407.6 ypg), getting it done with great balance (185.6 ypg rushing and 222.0 ypg passing). Finishing drives is another key to USC's success, with the team converting 86 percent of the time in the red zone. Quarterback John David Booty missed time this year due to injury, but has returned to lead the team of late. On the season, he has completed an efficient 63.5 percent of his throws, for 1,396 yards and 14 TDs. Booty has plenty of outlets downfield, like John Mackey Award semifinalist Fred Davis (44 receptions, for 634 yards and five TDs) at the TE position and WR Patrick Turner (41 receptions, for 464 yards and three TDs) on the outside. The ground game is handled by veteran Chauncey Washington (83.1 ypg) and youngster Stafon Johnson (60.0 ypg). The pair have combined for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs.

The USC defense has trailed behind the offense in terms of production for a few years, but this year's unit has certainly closed the gap and has actually been the driving force for the Trojans' success in 2007. The team ranks sixth in the nation in scoring defense (16.0 ppg) and 10th in rush defense (92.2 ypg). In addition, opponents are only converting 33 percent of the time on third down. Linebackers Keith Rivers (70 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two fumble recoveries) and Rey Maualuga (64 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, three sacks, one fumble recovery) are the top two tacklers on the team. The secondary features playmakers like safeties Taylor Mays (55 tackles, one INT) and Kevin Ellison (47 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, two sacks, two INTs) and cornerback Terrell Thomas (34 tackles, one sack, three INTs). Up front, opponents must account for All-American candidate Sedrick Ellis (48 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks) in the middle and Lawrence Jackson (44 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks) coming off the edge.

The Sun Devils have enjoyed great offensive success this season, averaging 34.2 ppg, on an impressive 426.5 yards of total offense. The ground game is netting an efficient 164.6 yards per game, but it is the passing attack (261.9 ypg) that opponents need to worry about. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter has been outstanding this season, completing just over 63 percent of his pass attempts, for 2,528 yards, with 20 TDs. Sophomore WR Chris McGaha leads the team in receptions (41), but it is junior Michael Jones (33 receptions, for 602 yards and six TDs) and sophomore Kyle Williams (26 receptions, for 338 yards and six TDs) that are the big threats. Tailback Ryan Torain (92.2 ypg, five TDs) was the top ground-gainer before going down to injury midway through the season. Keegan Herring (775 yards, 5.9 ypc, five TDs) and Dimitri Nance (375 yards, 4.5 ypc, six TDs) have filled the void nicely.

The Sun Devils have gotten the job done on the defensive side of the ball as well. The team ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense (18.0 ppg), while limiting foes to just 318.9 yards of total offense. ASU has also forced 22 turnovers this year, including 15 interceptions. Senior linebacker Robert James has played like an all-conference performer this season. He currently leads the Sun Devils in tackles (83), with 8.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks and four interceptions. Sophomore LB Travis Goethel is the closest in terms of total tackles (50). Junior strong safety Troy Nolan (47 tackles, team-high five INTs) and senior cornerback Justin Tryon (40 tackles, three INTs) highlight the play in the secondary, while sophomore rush end Dexter Davis (25 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks) has been a force along the defensive line.

Thought to be out of the Pac-10 race a few weeks ago, the Trojans have kept close and are now within striking distance. However, Erickson has done a great job in Tempe this year and his Sun Devils are more than capable of ending USC's reign of dominance in the conference.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 27, USC 24

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Crucial Top-25 tussle in the Pac-10
November 21st, 2007

Tempe, AZ (Sports Network) - The 11th-ranked USC Trojans will play on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1938, as they travel to the desert to take on the seventh-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils in Pac-10 action from Tempe.

A lot is at stake in this game, as Dennis Erickson's Sun Devils are sitting atop the conference standings with a 6-1 record. ASU's lone loss came on November 3rd at Oregon (35-23), but the team rallied with a 24-20 decision over UCLA in the Rose Bowl a week later.

The Trojans are just one game back in the standings at 5-2 and the team has posted two straight wins entering this contest, including a 24-17 victory at California on November 10th. There is plenty to play for in this game, as the Pac-10 title and subsequent BCS Bowl bid are still up for grabs. The Sun Devils will close out the regular season next week against Arizona, while the Trojans will host UCLA.

USC holds a 14-9 edge in the all-time series with Arizona State and has won each of the last seven meetings.

While not the offensive juggernaut the nation has come to expect with USC, this year's offense is anything but stagnant. The Trojans have certainly been able to move the chains (407.6 ypg), getting it done with great balance (185.6 ypg rushing and 222.0 ypg passing). Finishing drives is another key to USC's success, with the team converting 86 percent of the time in the red zone. Quarterback John David Booty missed time this year due to injury, but has returned to lead the team of late. On the season, he has completed an efficient 63.5 percent of his throws, for 1,396 yards and 14 TDs. Booty has plenty of outlets downfield, like John Mackey Award semifinalist Fred Davis (44 receptions, for 634 yards and five TDs) at the TE position and WR Patrick Turner (41 receptions, for 464 yards and three TDs) on the outside. The ground game is handled by veteran Chauncey Washington (83.1 ypg) and youngster Stafon Johnson (60.0 ypg). The pair have combined for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs.

The USC defense has trailed behind the offense in terms of production for a few years, but this year's unit has certainly closed the gap and has actually been the driving force for the Trojans' success in 2007. The team ranks sixth in the nation in scoring defense (16.0 ppg) and 10th in rush defense (92.2 ypg). In addition, opponents are only converting 33 percent of the time on third down. Linebackers Keith Rivers (70 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, two fumble recoveries) and Rey Maualuga (64 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, three sacks, one fumble recovery) are the top two tacklers on the team. The secondary features playmakers like safeties Taylor Mays (55 tackles, one INT) and Kevin Ellison (47 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, two sacks, two INTs) and cornerback Terrell Thomas (34 tackles, one sack, three INTs). Up front, opponents must account for All-American candidate Sedrick Ellis (48 tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks) in the middle and Lawrence Jackson (44 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 5.5 sacks) coming off the edge.

The Sun Devils have enjoyed great offensive success this season, averaging 34.2 ppg, on an impressive 426.5 yards of total offense. The ground game is netting an efficient 164.6 yards per game, but it is the passing attack (261.9 ypg) that opponents need to worry about. Quarterback Rudy Carpenter has been outstanding this season, completing just over 63 percent of his pass attempts, for 2,528 yards, with 20 TDs. Sophomore WR Chris McGaha leads the team in receptions (41), but it is junior Michael Jones (33 receptions, for 602 yards and six TDs) and sophomore Kyle Williams (26 receptions, for 338 yards and six TDs) that are the big threats. Tailback Ryan Torain (92.2 ypg, five TDs) was the top ground-gainer before going down to injury midway through the season. Keegan Herring (775 yards, 5.9 ypc, five TDs) and Dimitri Nance (375 yards, 4.5 ypc, six TDs) have filled the void nicely.

The Sun Devils have gotten the job done on the defensive side of the ball as well. The team ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense (18.0 ppg), while limiting foes to just 318.9 yards of total offense. ASU has also forced 22 turnovers this year, including 15 interceptions. Senior linebacker Robert James has played like an all-conference performer this season. He currently leads the Sun Devils in tackles (83), with 8.0 TFLs, 2.5 sacks and four interceptions. Sophomore LB Travis Goethel is the closest in terms of total tackles (50). Junior strong safety Troy Nolan (47 tackles, team-high five INTs) and senior cornerback Justin Tryon (40 tackles, three INTs) highlight the play in the secondary, while sophomore rush end Dexter Davis (25 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks) has been a force along the defensive line.

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(11) USC (8-2, 5-5 ATS) at (7) Arizona State (9-1, 6-4 ATS)

In a rare Thanksgiving Day game in the desert, Arizona State hosts USC in what amounts to an elimination battle between teams competing for the Pac-10 championship.

Both squads are coming off important conference road wins 12 days ago. Arizona State bounced back from its first loss of the season and held off UCLA 24-20 on Nov. 10, failing to cover as a seven-point favorite. Later that day, the Trojans got outgained for the first time this season at Cal, yet still prevailed 24-17 in a driving rainstorm, cashing as a four-point road chalk.

USC is 4-1 in its last five games (3-2 ATS), with all four wins coming by at least a touchdown. The Trojans are 4-1 on the highway this season (3-2 ATS).

Arizona State, which started the season 8-0 before suffering a 35-23 loss at Oregon, are unbeaten in six home games, going 5-1 ATS. The Sun Devils have outscored their visitors by an average of 22 points per game (39-17), with all six wins coming by double digits.

USC owns a seven-game winning streak against Arizona State (5-2 ATS), including three straight victories in Tempe. However, both of the Sun Devils’ spread-covers have come in the last two meetings, including last year, when USC squeaked out a 28-21 win but failed to cover as an 18½-point favorite.

The Trojans are 22-6 ATS in their last 28 November games, while Arizona State is just 7-19 ATS in its last 26 in November.

Despite the win and cover at Cal, USC is just 3-8 ATS in its last 11 Pac-10 road games. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are 2-5 ATS in their last seven as an underdog, but 17-8 ATS in their last 25 home contests and 7-2-1 ATS since 1997 as a home pup.

Both teams are solid on both sides of the ball. USC averages 30.7 points and 407.7 yards per game (186.7 rushing ypg), while giving up 16 points and 267.8 yards per contest (92 rushing ypg). Meanwhile, Arizona State puts up 34.2 points and 426.5 yards per game (164.6 rushing ypg) while surrendering 18 points and 319 yards (105.5 rushing ypg).

USC has stayed under the total in eight consecutive games, while Arizona State has stayed low in three straight. For the season, the under is 9-1 for the Trojans (4-1 on the road) and 8-2 for Arizona State (3-2 at home).

ATS ADVANTAGE:  USC and UNDER

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Trojans plan to draw a line in the sand

Defensive front is eager to take on Arizona State, which has given up 43 sacks.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- USC's defensive linemen patiently waited 12 days for Thanksgiving to arrive, hungrily anticipating a feast that has nothing to do with turkey.

Arizona State has given up 43 sacks, most in the Pacific 10 Conference and second most in the nation.

"We're licking our chops," Trojans end Kyle Moore said.

Tonight at Sun Devil Stadium, 11th-ranked USC will try to continue the trend that has plagued but not yet seriously hurt seventh-ranked Arizona State.

The defensive line, thinking back to USC's season-best nine-sack performance against Oregon State, believes it can be the difference as the Trojans try to keep their Rose Bowl hopes alive.

"It really does feel like it's the midst of playoff time," Coach Pete Carroll said.

USC, 8-2 overall and 5-2 in the Pac-10, will target quarterback Rudy Carpenter with hopes of forcing interceptions and fumbles that could hurt the Sun Devils' prospects for the Rose Bowl and possibly more.

"We've been working on little things to help us capitalize," said senior end Lawrence Jackson, who has 5 1/2 of the Trojans' 30 sacks. "They have long-developing pass routes and an NFL-style offense.

"They put a lot on their O-line and they're going to strike you big if you don't get the sacks."

The strategy has paid off for first-year Coach Dennis Erickson.

Arizona State (9-1, 6-1) is sixth in the Bowl Championship Series standings. If the Sun Devils defeat USC and Arizona, they are guaranteed a Rose Bowl berth and might be in contention for the BCS title game.

Erickson, who won two national championships at Miami, let Sun Devils players know early in the year that success was possible.

"I told them that I hoped that I could take them to places like this, where they would have this opportunity, and it's here," Erickson said.

Erickson has studied USC's defensive front, which includes Jackson, nose tackle Sedrick Ellis, tackle Fili Moala and Moore, who will play behind freshman Everson Griffen today because of a hand injury.

Some of what Erickson sees is familiar.

"They remind me a little bit of some of the fronts I had at Miami, Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy and some of those guys," Erickson said.

USC is ranked first in the Pac-10 and third nationally in defense, giving up 267.9 yards per game.

Said Erickson: "We haven't seen a defense close to it."

That might be a problem for Carpenter, a junior from Westlake High who has passed for 20 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Carpenter suffered a sprained thumb against California on Oct. 27. He re-injured it when he hit his hand on a helmet against UCLA on Nov. 10.

Carroll, though, is wary of a player who has a knack for making something out of nothing.

"Rudy makes plays that you just can't fathom how he figured it out," Carroll said.

Arizona State also is counting on running backs Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance to take some of the pressure off Carpenter.

"It is going to be a huge week for our offensive line and a huge challenge for those guys to see how well we can protect and run the ball against probably the best defensive line in the country," Carpenter said.

Griffen, an Arizona native, did not hesitate when asked about the Sun Devils' offensive line.

"They're just slow, big guys, that's it," he said. "Just run past them."

USC's offensive line, meantime, is back to full strength with the return of All-American tackle Sam Baker, who sat out all or most of the last three games because of a hamstring injury.

The open date after USC's rain-soaked victory at Cal on Nov. 10 also provided quarterback John David Booty with some extra rest for the right middle finger that was broken against Stanford on Oct. 6.

Booty completed 11 of 20 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown without an interception against Cal.

"If he does what he did last week and complements what we need in the game, that's really what we're looking for," Carroll said.

Last year against Arizona State, with Booty struggling in the second half, USC put the ball in tailback Chauncey Washington's hands. Washington carried 10 times during a fourth-quarter drive that led to the decisive touchdown in USC's 28-21 victory.

The Trojans turned to Washington again against Cal. The fifth-year senior carried 29 times for a career-best 220 yards and a touchdown.

A win today, combined with a win over UCLA on Dec. 1 and a stumble by Oregon in at least one of its final two games would give USC a least a share of its sixth consecutive Pac-10 title and a third consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

"It's a long ways to home, and there's a lot of games to be played around the conference and a lot of really competitive matchups coming up here," Carroll said. "You're going to have to earn your way."

www.latimes.com

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