Game of Dashed Hopes

When October began, it appeared this game would have a big impact on the national championship picture, let alone the Pac-10 title race.

Because the rest of the month did not go nearly as well as USC or California hoped, these ranked teams are out of the BCS title chase and have very slim hopes of even winning the conference going into their matchup Saturday night.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made USC -4 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on USC -4 (View College Football bet percentages).

Southern California (7-2, 4-2) was a near unanimous No. 1 selection in the preseason rankings, but has not been among the top 10 since early October and heads into this matchup ranked 12th. Cal (6-3, 3-3), picked to finish second to the Trojans in the Pac-10, fell out of the poll altogether before re-entering this week at No. 24.

"Some people jumped off the bandwagon, but we can't control who sticks with us," said Cal linebacker Zack Follett, among 18 players who will be honored on senior day at Memorial Stadium. "There's nothing we can do except keep playing."

USC was atop the AP rankings throughout September until falling slightly behind LSU in the month's final poll. The Trojans dropped a lot further the following week after a shocking 24-23 home loss to lowly Stanford.

That defeat opened up the No. 2 spot for California, which was 5-0 and coming off a road win over then-No. 11 Oregon.

It was the Bears' highest ranking since 1951, but it didn't last long, and they would fall completely out of the poll before October was over. Cal followed the 31-24 victory over the Ducks with three straight losses, falling to unranked teams Oregon State and UCLA before an Oct. 27 defeat at then-No. 7 Arizona State.

"It's been a hard three weeks. We've been in very close football games. It really makes you appreciate the wins," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "When we were winning and things like that, it was - I don't want to say routine - but it was something I don't think people were getting fired up about. It was another day at the office.

"We really need to make sure we enjoy the victories because they are hard to come by."

Tedford's comments came after the Golden Bears ended their losing streak last Saturday with a fairly unimpressive home victory - 20-17 over a Washington State team which is tied for last place in the Pac-10.

While Cal is tied for fifth in the conference, USC moved into a tie for third after a 24-3 win over visiting Oregon State last Saturday. The Trojans lost 24-17 at then-No. 5 Oregon the previous week to close a 2-2 October.

USC had nine sacks last week while limiting Oregon State to 176 total yards, holding the opposition to 13 points or less for the third time in four games.

"It just was an overwhelming night for our defense," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "That doesn't surprise me. We've been playing great 'D' all year. Games like this should pop up."

USC is allowing conference lows of 15.9 points and 253.3 yards per game.

Known in recent years for prolific offenses, the Trojans and the Bears have suffered from injuries and ineffectiveness at quarterback.

USC's John David Booty returned last week after missing three games with a broken finger, completing 19 of 33 passes for 157 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. A Heisman hopeful when the season began, Booty has thrown for more than 300 yards in only one of six games and his eight interceptions are one fewer than his 13-game total last year.

Including Mark Sanchez's inconsistent play while starting in Booty's place, the Trojans have thrown for 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season.

Nate Longshore sat out the first game of Cal's three-game skid due to a sprained ankle and has been bothered by the injury ever since, throwing six interceptions in the last three games. He had only two during the Bears' 5-0 start.

"We all made mistakes that we have to correct, but we're just glad to get a win," Longshore said after going 26-of-39 for 213 yards with no touchdowns and an interception last week. "It's a good chance to get us back to where we need to be before we (face USC)."

Longshore was 17-of-38 for 176 yards with one TD and two interceptions in last year's 23-9 loss to the Trojans that spoiled Cal's Rose Bowl hopes. USC forced three turnovers and held the Bears to 275 total yards, which remains their lowest total since 2003.

USC has won the last three meetings, and is 21-0 in November games under Carroll.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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