Back on Track?
After falling victim to a stunning upset in its Pac-10 opener, Southern California bounced back in resounding fashion last weekend with a blowout victory over a ranked opponent.
But if the eighth-ranked Trojans want to continue their resurgence on Saturday, they may have to do it without their starting quarterback.
Whether Mark Sanchez or Mitch Mustain is under center, USC will look to deal a fourth consecutive defeat to visiting Arizona State, which also may be missing its starting signal-caller due to injury.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made USC -27 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on USC -27 View College Football bet percentages).
After a 27-21 loss at Oregon State on Sept. 25 knocked the Trojans (3-1, 1-1 Pac-10) from their No. 1 ranking, coach Pete Carroll's team wasted no time making a statement in their return to action, as they rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense in a 44-10 win over then-No. 23 Oregon last Saturday.
Sanchez threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, but the junior sustained a bone bruise in his left knee when he was sacked by the Ducks.
"It's day-to-day with Mark," Carroll said. "We'll wait and see how he's going to do. We're very fortunate, and he's very fortunate in this injury, that he didn't have any damage other than the bruise. But it's still very sore and stiff."
If Sanchez can't go, Mustain would get the start after shooting up the depth chart last week. The transfer from Arkansas entered the game Saturday after Sanchez's injury and went 5-of-8 for 111 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"I know he's really pumped up about the opportunity," Carroll said. "He did a nice job last week, which helps him kind of lead into this week."
The Trojans may have to deal with a key injury on the other side of the ball, too. Standout linebacker Rey Maualuga missed Saturday's game due to a sprained knee, but there's a chance he could return against Arizona State.
USC was still impressive against Oregon, scoring 41 unanswered points to finish the game, including 24 straight just before halftime.
While the quarterbacks completed two-thirds of their passes for 443 yards, the defense held the Ducks 37 points below their previous season average, putting together what Carroll called "exactly the game we were looking for to bounce back and get back on track."
Arizona State (2-3, 1-1) needs a similar type of effort. The Sun Devils were ranked 15th before their three-game losing streak, which began with a stunning 23-20 home loss to UNLV on Sept. 13. After a 27-10 defeat to then-No. 3 Georgia, they lost 24-14 at California last Saturday.
Adding to their problems was an injury to senior quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who sprained his ankle during the loss to California. Carpenter hopes to make his 37th straight start on Saturday, but his foot was still in a boot on Tuesday and he could turn into a game-time decision.
Danny Sullivan would be ready to play in his place. The junior, who was once recruited by USC, has just one completion in eight attempts this season.
"To go down and have your first start in a college game against USC is very challenging," Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said. "There is no question about that. But I really like him. He is very competitive and knows what we're doing. So if that's the case, he will do a good job."
Arizona State also has other problems. The Sun Devils have just 75 rushing yards in the last two games combined, and they've turned the ball over five times in the last three contests while managing just one takeaway.
"We try to run our game plan, and on offense, we haven't been executing the way that we should be," said Carpenter. "We haven't been completing passes. We haven't been making big plays. So, I'm trying to find the answer."
The tough start is hardly what was expected of a team that shared the Pac-10 title with the Trojans last season, though USC advanced to the Rose Bowl due to a 44-24 victory over the Sun Devils in Tempe.
That was the Trojans' eighth straight win in the series. They've averaged 40 points and more than 475 total yards in those games.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
USC is 9-5 against the spread versus ARIZONA ST since 1992
USC is 11-3 straight up against ARIZONA ST since 1992
7 of 12 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
USC is 1-1 against the spread versus ARIZONA ST over the last 3 seasons
USC is 2-0 straight up against ARIZONA ST over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at USC since 1992
USC is 5-2 against the spread versus ARIZONA ST since 1992
USC is 6-1 straight up against ARIZONA ST since 1992
3 of 5 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at USC over the last 3 seasons.
ARIZONA ST is 1-0 against the spread versus USC over the last 3 seasons
USC is 1-0 straight up against ARIZONA ST over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries:
[RB] Jarrell Woods injured in practice, "?". - Ankle - 09/25/08
[LB] Brandon Magee missed last game, upgraded to probable. - Pectoral - 10
[LB] Chad Lindsey, has left the team. - Personal - 09/11/08
[RB] James Morrison is likely out for the season. - Ankle - 09/17/08
[RB] Keegan Herring missed last game, upgraded to probable. - Hamstring -
[RB] Dimitri Nance missed last game %27?%27 - Thumb - 09/20/08
[LB] Travis Goethel missed last game probable - Neck - 09/28/08
[LB] Gerald Munns is out for the season. - Personal - 10/01/08
[CB] Grant Crunkleton has left the team. - None - 09/11/08
[DB] Angelo Fobbs-Valentino missed last game %27?%27 - Leg - 09/28/08
[OL] Matt Hustad missed last game %27?%27 - Knee - 09/20/08
[S] Jonathan Clark is out indefinitely. - Knee - 10/01/08
[OL] Zack Heberer left last game, downgraded to out indefinitely. - Toe -
[C] Michael Reardon is out indefinitely - Hip - 09/07/08
[LB] Rey Maualuga left last game, "?". - Knee - 09/26/08
[LB] Chris Galippo missed last 3 games, "?". - Back - 09/25/08
[LB] Brian Cushing left last game, upgraded to probable. - Hand - 09/30/08
[CB] Shareece Wright is expected to miss up to 6 weeks. - Neck - 09/23/08
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