USC Looks To Stay Perfect

If there's one thing Southern California does better than run the football, it's defend against the run.

Top-ranked USC takes one of the nation's best rushing offenses and rushing defenses to Seattle on Saturday as it continues its quest for an unprecedented sixth straight conference title with a matchup against Washington.

The Trojans (3-0, 1-0) are 10th in the country with 244.7 rushing yards per game, thanks to a stable of running backs that includes Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Chauncey Washington - who have each run for at least 100 yards this season.

Meanwhile, the Trojan defense is holding opponents to only 64.3 rushing yards per game, eighth-fewest in the nation.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global  have made USC -20.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 57.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on USC -20.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

USC outgained Washington State 207-64 on the ground as the Trojans began their latest conference title defense with a 47-14 win last Saturday. Washington, Johnson and freshman Joe McKnight combined for 180 yards on only 27 carries while Washington State's Dwight Tardy, who averaged 101 yards rushing in his first three games, was held to 27 on 11 attempts.

"You saw some really great stuff tonight," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "Chauncey was running like heck out there. He's just so tough to tackle and Stafon, it just seems like he never goes down on the first hit. Joe was out there making guys miss. Just really great stuff today."

The Trojans didn't rely solely on the run, however, as Heisman Trophy candidate John David Booty completed 28 of 35 passes for 279 yards and a career high-tying four touchdowns. Fred Davis established a school record for a tight end with 124 receiving yards and set personal bests with nine catches and two TDs.

"I'm really fired up about this offense because we have a lot of ways to go right now, a lot of places to put the football," said Carroll, whose team has scored 44.7 points per game - second-best in the Pac-10 and 13th-best in the country.

The Trojans haven't lost in 13 September games since a 34-31 defeat at California on Sept. 27, 2003. They'll put that win streak on the line against the Huskies, who are 1-9 all-time against teams ranked No. 1, including 0-6 against top-ranked USC teams.

Washington has lost its last five meetings with Southern California to fall to 26-47-4 in the all-time series, but made a bid at an upset in a 26-20 loss in Los Angeles last Oct. 7. The Huskies ran for 167 yards - the most by any team against USC since the beginning of last season - but the defeat was the first of six straight for a Washington team that opened the season 4-1.

The Huskies' valiant effort against the Trojans last year isn't much consolation for coach Tyrone Willingham, who's convinced USC has improved.

"They are obviously the best team in the country," Willingham said Monday. "They are better than a year ago in every aspect."

Then again, the Huskies (2-2, 0-1) are also much improved in part because of the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker, the team's leading passer and rusher.

Locker ranks ahead of any of USC's running backs in the Pac-10 with 90 rushing yards per game. He used his versatility to lead the Huskies to wins in his first two college games - a start that brought positive attention to a program that had floundered over the last several seasons.

Since the strong start, however, Washington has dropped consecutive games, including last Saturday's 44-31 loss to UCLA in the Huskies' conference opener.

Locker had completed only 6 of 21 passes late in the third quarter, but finished strong by completing 11 of his last 15 with three touchdowns in the fourth. He had a season-high 216 passing yards and has become a focal point for Carroll and the USC defense.

"I just can't help but be totally attracted by what Jake has done," Carroll said. "He is just an outstanding football player for a first time around freshman."

Locker's strong finish last week was negated by another bad second half by the Washington defense, which has given up 64 points after halftime in the team's two losses. The Huskies allowed only six second-half points in their two wins.

by: Anthony White - - Email Us

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