#1 Trojans Battle Cougars

Any doubts about Southern California's No. 1 ranking were likely put to rest with a big win last weekend. Now, the Trojans begin their quest for their sixth straight Pac-10 title when they play their conference opener against Washington State on Saturday.

Southern California (2-0) cruised to a 38-10 win over Idaho in the season opener Sept. 1, but it was a forgettable victory for the heavily favored Trojans, who committed three turnovers and sputtered at times offensively.

After a week off, USC looked more like the best team in the country last Saturday, when the Trojans beat then-No. 14 Nebraska 49-31 in Lincoln in their first big test of the season.

"The Idaho game was lethargic," nose tackle Sedrick Ellis said. "We wanted to come back with intensity and show everyone what we can do."

The Trojan running attack compiled 313 yards - its highest total since Dec. 3, 2005. Stafon Johnson had 144 yards and a touchdown, and was one of four USC rushers to reach the end zone as the Trojans recorded the most points by a team visiting Nebraska since 1945.

"I didn't think there was any question we could run the ball at any time," coach Pete Carroll said. "Anything we wanted to get done on the line of scrimmage we were able to get done.

"This game was clear that we had command of it. I love that we played the way we did today."

USC's defense, meanwhile, held Nebraska to 31 yards on the ground and has allowed only 64.5 rushing yards per game - ninth-fewest in the nation. Saturday's convincing win already has the Trojans talking about the possibility of playing in the BCS championship game for the third time in four years.

"It was a great challenge, the first road game of the season," defensive end Kyle Moore said. "If we continue to keep doing that through the season, we should be in New Orleans."

The Trojans hope to carry the momentum from last week back to the Coliseum, where they've won 34 straight, including 23 consecutive conference games - both Pac-10 records. USC hasn't lost at home since a 21-16 defeat against Stanford on Sept. 29, 2001.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global  have made USC -25 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 64.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on USC -25 (View College Football bet percentages).

Washington State (2-1), though, has won two of its last four games at the Coliseum, beating USC there in 1997 and 2000 before back-to-back losses in 2003 and 2005.

Despite their relative success in Los Angeles, however, the Cougars have lost four straight and 31 of their last 35 meetings with the Trojans to fall to 8-54-4 in the series. Washington State last beat USC on Oct. 5, 2002 - one of the Trojans' four conference losses during their run of five straight Pac-10 titles.

Last Saturday, the Cougars relied on their strong passing game to beat Idaho 45-28. Alex Brink threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, but didn't quite match his performance from the previous week, when he completed a school-record 38 passes for 469 yards in a 45-17 victory over San Diego State.

"We executed pretty well offensively. I don't think we were as sharp as we were last week," said Brink, who's 10th in the country with 947 passing yards. "We had some uncharacteristic penalties, missed throws, dropped passes, things like that that we don't usually have. I definitely think going into next week we'll need to play a little bit better."

Michael Bumpus caught eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, giving him consecutive 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his four-year career. He last reached the century mark with 11 catches for 112 yards in last season's 28-22 loss to USC.

"We still found some things we need to work on," he said Saturday. "That's why you play these preseason games so you can fine tune things before you go into the Pac-10."

Washington State hasn't had a winning conference record since 2003. The Cougars were 4-2 against Pac-10 opponents before dropping their last three games last year.

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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