San Jose St. - USC Odds
Los Angeles, CA - In his nine seasons at Southern California, Pete Carroll has developed a line of star quarterbacks.
Matt Barkley will try to add his name to that list beginning with Saturday's opener against visiting San Jose State, as he becomes the fourth-ranked Trojans' first-ever true freshman starter.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTBETTING.com have made USC -34 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on USC -34 (View College Football bet percentages).
Carroll coached Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and last year's starter, Mark Sanchez, was drafted fifth overall by the New York Jets.
All of those players, however, spent their first games with USC watching from the sideline.
After enrolling in January, Barkley beat out redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp - who was named the starter in April - and junior Mitch Mustain. The freshman took the lead in the competition when Corp missed two weeks after cracking the head of his left fibula Aug. 10.
"Matt earned it," quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said. "It's not based on (Corp's) injury or anything like that. Matt has made some mistakes, but he's learned from it and come back. He's made it exciting."
Barkley, who turns 19 on Sept. 8, was also the first freshman quarterback to start at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., since former Trojan Todd Marinovich. Barkley threw for 6,594 yards and 57 touchdowns in four seasons at the school - also Leinart's alma mater - while winning national awards in his junior and senior years.
As a result, it seems hardly surprising that he has little fear heading into his historic start.
"I don't feel intimidated at all," Barkley said. "There's been some great quarterbacks here, we all know that, and I'm just excited to be a part of it. ... I've been preparing this whole time like I'm the starter. That's what I came in here in January hoping to do."
The Trojans' usual bevy of talented skill players should help ease any nervousness Barkley experiences. USC returns its top five rushers and four of its five leading receivers from last season.
Senior Stafon Johnson rushed for a team-best 705 yards and nine touchdowns, and junior Damian Williams was the school's top pass catcher with 58 receptions for 869 yards and nine TDs. Junior tailback Joe McKnight added 905 all-purpose yards with 659 on the ground for an offense that returns nine starters, including the entire offensive line.
The defense has only three starters returning, although one of them is All-American safety Taylor Mays. Carroll, however, announced Monday that expected starting cornerback Shareece Wright has been declared academically ineligible for the season.
Josh Pinkard, a starting cornerback last year who had been slotted as a starting safety, will take Wright's place.
Carroll's team is favored to extend its record streak of Pac-10 championships to eight. The Trojans have an NCAA-record seven consecutive 11-win seasons, with a BCS bowl game appearance and season-ending top-four ranking in each year.
However, they have not played for a national title since their 2006 Rose Bowl defeat to Texas, and are nearly six years removed from their back-to-back national championships.
Upsets have derailed their recent drives for another championship, and they suffered their only defeat in 13 games last season at Oregon State.
USC will try to avoid another stunning loss when it faces San Jose State - which boasts a head coach who has had success against the Trojans.
Dick Tomey won his last two games against USC and five of 12 matchups while coaching Arizona from 1987-2000. His 181 career victories are fourth most among active FBS coaches, and his 23 wins with San Jose are the most in a four-year span at the school since 1990-93.
The Spartans return 15 starters from last year's team that finished 6-6 and lost its final three games. San Jose State, picked to finish sixth in the Western Athletic Conference, brings back seven starters from a defense that was ranked 21st nationally.
Junior Duke Ihenacho was a first-team All-WAC linebacker last year but returns to safety this season. His older brother, Carl, was a second team selection at defensive lineman and was eighth in the nation in tackles for loss with 18.5.
The Trojans have won all three matchups with the Spartans, the most recent meeting coming in Carroll's USC debut in 2001, a 21-10 victory at the Coliseum.
USC is 28-1 all-time against WAC opponents. San Jose State has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2000.
All games in this series since 1992
SAN JOSE ST is 2-0 against the spread versus USC since 1992
USC is 3-0 straight up against SAN JOSE ST since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
SAN JOSE ST
No significant injuries.
No significant injuries.
Posted: 9/1/09 1:05PM ET