Pullman, WA - Southern California coach Pete Carroll vowed that his team wouldn't take any game for granted after the Trojans fell out of the No. 1 spot in the country following a loss to an unranked opponent.
He hopes to live up to his word during this week's meeting with woeful Washington State.
In their first game away from home since a road loss in late September put a damper on their national title hopes, the sixth-ranked Trojans look to stay focused and continue their climb in the polls as they visit the Cougars in a Pac-10 matchup Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made USC –42.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 60% of bets for this game have been placed on Washington State +42.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
After cruising to a 52-7 win in its season opener against Virginia on Aug. 30, USC (4-1, 2-1) dominated then-No. 5 Ohio State to win what was considered to be a matchup of national championship contenders 35-3 on Sept. 13.
That victory gave the Trojans the No. 1 ranking in the country, but their stay at the top didn't last long. USC lost its next game 27-21 at Oregon State on Sept. 25.
The Trojans have rebounded with home wins over then-No. 23 Oregon and Arizona State to move back to No. 6 in the country, and Carroll is determined to help his team continue moving in the right direction Saturday.
"Every week coaches are challenged by the fact that you have to find that level (of play)," he said Tuesday. "You can go out and play and then you can go out and compete and battle, and there's a fine line between the difference there.
"When you have it, you have it. When you don't, you don't, and we've seen that. And we have to ensure the steps that we take that everybody is tuned in, everybody is ready to play with the right intensity and the iron and the commitment and all the things that it takes to perform at your best."
Though its loss was deflating, USC still has a good chance of winning its record seventh straight Pac-10 title if it can continue its resurgence. The only team in the conference without a Pac-10 loss is California, which visits USC on Nov. 8.
As tempting as it is, however, the Trojans aren't looking past this weekend's matchup against the Cougars (1-6, 0-4).
"If we have any chance to have a good season, we've got to find a way each week to generate (the proper intensity and commitment)," Carroll said. "This is a different challenge (than Oregon State). It's a challenge against a team that's struggling, and we've got to make sure and respect the game, respect this opportunity, and bring that sense of awareness and urgency to the game."
Struggling might be an understatement for what's been a dismal season for the Cougars, who are off to their worst start since they opened the 1982 season 1-6-1.
Washington State had more penalty yards (145) than offensive yards (132) in a 66-13 loss at Oregon State last Saturday, the third time this season it's given up at least 60 points. The Cougars are allowing 45.1 points per game, including 55.8 in conference play.
A season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Marshall Lobbestael only makes things worse for Washington State. There was no definitive word on who will start Saturday, but former starter Kevin Lopina had recovered enough from a broken bone in his back to practice Sunday.
"We believe that Kevin Lopina will be back playing for us this week," coach Paul Wulff said Tuesday.
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez battled his own injury last weekend, going 13-for-26 for 179 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in the 28-0 victory over Arizona State while playing with a bone bruise in his left knee.
"Clearly, Mark was struggling today," Carroll said. "He wasn't at his best, but to tell you the truth, we were surprised he played. He continues being a hero out there the way he steps up."
Sanchez is expected to start as USC goes for its sixth straight win over Washington State. The Trojans have won the last five by an average of 27.6 points, and are 55-8-4 in the all-time series.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
USC is 9-6 against the spread versus WASHINGTON ST since 1992
USC is 12-3 straight up against WASHINGTON ST since 1992
9 of 14 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
WASHINGTON ST is 1-1 against the spread versus USC over the last 3 seasons
USC is 2-0 straight up against WASHINGTON 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 WASHINGTON ST since 1992
USC is 4-3 against the spread versus WASHINGTON ST since 1992
USC is 6-1 straight up against WASHINGTON ST since 1992
5 of 6 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at WASHINGTON ST over the last 3 seasons.
WASHINGTON ST is 1-0 against the spread versus USC over the last 3 seasons
USC is 1-0 straight up against WASHINGTON ST over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[LB] Michael Morgan injured last game, %27?%27 - Concussion - 10/07/08
(!) [QB] Mark Sanchez is probable - Knee - 10/05/08
[RB] Marc Tyler is %27?%27 - Hip - 10/09/08
[FB] Stanley Havili is upgraded to probable - Neck - 10/09/08
[RB] Allen Bradford downgraded to expected to miss - Hip - 10/08/08
[WR] Vidal Hazelton upgraded to probable - Ankle - 10/08/08
[TE] Rhett Ellison is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. - Fibula - 10/03/08
[OL] Zack Heberer out indefinitely. - Toe - 09/30/08
[C] Michael Reardon is out indefinitely - Hip - 09/07/08
[OG] Jeff Byers is "?". - Knee - 10/08/08
[LB] Rey Maualuga missed last game, upgraded to probable - Knee - 10/05/08
[CB] Shareece Wright is expected to miss up to 6 weeks. - Neck - 09/23/08
[QB] Gary Rogers out for the season - Back - 09/21/08
(!) [QB] Kevin Lopina expected to miss 2-6 weeks. - Back - 09/24/08
[RB] Chris Ivory downgraded to expected to miss - Hamstring - 10/08/08
[WR] Daniel Blackledge missed last game, %27?%27 - Shoulder - 10/05/08
[WR] Keith Rosenberg has left the team. - Personal - 09/05/08
[OL] Steven Ayers missed last game, %27?%27 - Neck - 10/05/08
[OL] Dan Rowlands has left the team. - Shoulder - 08/27/08
[DT] Andy Roof has been dismissed from the team. - Suspension - 08/27/08
[LB] Cory Evans missed last game, %27?%27 - Hamstring - 10/05/08
[LB] Jason Stripling is out for the season. - Shoulder - 09/24/08
[OL] Will Hunter is %27?%27 - Finger - 10/06/08
[DE] Jessy Sanchez is out indefinitely. - Shoulder - 09/09/08
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Posted: 10/14/08 10:21 PM