Bounce Back Time

Southern California has lost six times in its last 70 regular-season games, with a stunning defeat in its Pac-10 opener last week the fifth of those to an unranked opponent.

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Against the Top 25, however, the Trojans have been nearly unbeatable - with one recent exception.

Looking to bounce back after a shocking loss, ninth-ranked USC will also have payback on its mind Saturday in Los Angeles when it hosts No. 23 Oregon, which last season became the first ranked team to beat the Trojans in the regular season since 2002.

Oddsmakers from have made USC –16 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on USC –16 (View College Football bet percentages).

Pete Carroll is in his eighth season at USC (2-1, 0-1 Pac-10), and the coach has guided one of college football's most storied programs to six consecutive Pac-10 championships and two national titles. If there's been one flaw during Carroll's tenure, it's been the Trojans' occasional tendency to play down to the level of their competition.

USC was 64-5 in the regular season since October 2002 heading into its Pac-10 opener last Thursday at Oregon State, but four of those losses came against unranked opponents. The Beavers handed the Trojans their fifth loss to a team outside the Top 25, racing out to a three-touchdown lead at halftime and hanging on to knock off the nation's No. 1 team 27-21.

"We weren't ready to do what we needed to do,'' Carroll said. "We felt like we had great preparation. We thought we did everything like we needed to and then when we're out there it just didn't feel like it.''

What Carroll has almost always had his team prepared to do is compete against Top 25 teams. USC is 21-1 against ranked opponents in the regular season since Oct. 19, 2002, and already knocked off then-No. 5 Ohio State in mid-September.

But the one ranked squad to knock off the Trojans did so last season. USC - just as it is this week - was ranked ninth as it went into Eugene to face fifth-ranked Oregon on Oct. 27, and lost 24-17.

The Ducks (4-1, 2-0) ran for 182 yards in that win, the second-highest total allowed by the Trojans since their 2006 Rose Bowl loss to Vince Young and Texas.

The third-highest total was Oregon State's 176 yards last week, and USC may have lost more than just their No. 1 ranking in Corvallis. Two-time All-Pac-10 linebacker Rey Maualuga, the Trojans' defensive leader, sprained his knee in the loss and though an MRI revealed no structural damage, Carroll said his status for Saturday is questionable.

Even if Maualuga plays, USC will have its hands full with Oregon's rushing attack. The Ducks are fourth in the nation on the ground, running for an average of 308.6 yards in their first five games.

"In areas we need to shore up, they are extremely capable and strong," Carroll said. "You can't ignore the running game with over 300 yards rushing."

Oregon ran for 346 yards and got three touchdowns from both LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson on Saturday in a 63-14 win at Washington State.

"They mix it up and they do different things running the football, and that really keeps defenses off balance," coach Mike Bellotti said. "Jeremiah is going to run around you, make you miss. LeGarrette is going to run over you or over the top of you."

Blount and Johnson have formed quite a duo through five games - combining for 945 yards and 14 touchdowns - and they've helped take the pressure off a shaky situation at quarterback. Justin Roper has missed the last two games with a knee injury, and though he's expected back against USC, he was battling the flu early in the week.

If Roper can't go, sophomore Jeremiah Masoli will get the call. Masoli was 9-for-16 for 161 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Cougars.

USC has the stability under center that Oregon lacks, but Mark Sanchez wasn't without fault in the loss to the Beavers. He was 18-for-29 for 227 yards and three touchdowns, but threw a crucial interception with the Trojans down seven late in the game that led to another Oregon State score.

"I'm as guilty as anyone else," Sanchez said.

USC has won 14 games in a row against ranked opponents in the Coliseum since a 10-6 loss to No. 12 Kansas State on Sept. 8, 2001 - Carroll's second game as head coach.

Key Injuries:

[QB] Nathan Costa expected to miss the season - ACL - 08/24/08
[QB] Justin Roper injured last game, out 2 - 4 weeks - Knee - 09/14/08
[LB] Kevin Garrett has been dismissed from the team. - Suspension - 08/26/
[DB] Walter Thurmond III missed last game, downgraded to doubtful. - Groin
[QB] Jeremiah Masoli left last game, upgraded to probable. - Head - 09/24/

[WR] Patrick Turner is upgraded to probable - Thigh - 09/22/08
[WR] Damian Williams upgraded to probable - Ankle - 09/21/08
[C] Michael Reardon is out indefinitely - Hip - 09/07/08
[DE] Kyle Moore is ? - Back - 09/19/08
[LB] Chris Galippo is expected to miss. - Undisclosed - 09/23/08
[CB] Shareece Wright is expected to miss up to 6 weeks. - Neck - 09/23/08

Betting Trends:

USC is 1-9 ATS (-8.9 Units) in weeks 5 through 9 over the last 3 seasons.
Head-to-Head Series History
USC is 1-1 against the spread versus OREGON over the last 3 seasons
USC is 1-1 straight up against OREGON over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

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