Q&A: USC under the Microscope

USC is No. 7 in the BCS, but they don't control their own destiny. If USC wants to win the Pac-10 they have to win out and hope for an Oregon State loss. Cal controls its own fate to Pasadena. CSD had a chance to talk with Chris Dufresne of the L.A. Times about the state of the Trojans. And if the Bears are ready to come up with the victory over USC that people have been waiting for since 2003…

A few seasons ago, the combination of Reggie Bush and Lendale White was very productive. Is there a reason that Pete Carroll has not gone with two backs only? Either Stafon Johnson/Joe McKnight or Stafon Johnson/C.J. Gable?

Bush and White were a special duo; known as Thunder and Lightning, and it was tough enough getting those two guys the ball enough. There's no doubt it's a problem when you recruit so many top tailbacks but you still only have one ball. Carroll convinces all these guys they can come here and play right away, which they can if they are good enough, but not all of them are good enough or get frustrated. Emmanuel Moody, for example, transferred to Florida.

The Trojans have been very successful when it comes to recruiting. They have had standout players at quarterback, running back, defensive line and linebacker. Why has USC had such a hard time finding explosive players at the receiver position?

I'm not sure they have had a hard time finding explosive receivers. Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith were pretty terrific college players. This group of receivers has not been as good but Patrick Turner out of Tennessee was very highly touted out of high school he just didn't pan out quite the way everyone expected. David Ausberry was Parade All-American and Vidal Hazelton was SuperPrep elite 50 players but they have not been superstars by any stretch of the imagination. I do like Damian Williams, the transfer from Arkansas.

USC does have a very talented defense, but the offense is nowhere close to the team that lost to Texas three years ago in the Rose Bowl. Has this Trojan team been over hyped in terms of this team being the most talented team that Pete Carroll has coached at USC?

I don't think the offense was every over-hyped. I think USC was ranked so high this year because of the defense, which has turned out to be Carroll's best. They have three shut outs and are ranked No.1 in the country going into the Cal game. The offense was going to be a work in progress, especially on the offensive line. Sanchez at quarterback was highly touted but not really tested. He hurt his knee in training camp and that threw things off kilter. He has been inconsistent this year, brilliant at times and shaky at other times, especially in the loss at Oregon State.

Since the triple-overtime victory by Cal in 2003 and the game in 2004, when Aaron Rodgers almost completed every pass, the entire country has been waiting for the Cal/USC game to become a big rivalry. How close is the talent between USC and Cal? What is it about the Cal football team that would worry Coach Carroll?

Cal-USC has not been the great rivalry we all were waiting for...Since 2004, USC won 35-10, 23-9 and 24-17. The talent level is not equal yet. Cal has had some great players, DeSean Jackson and [Jahvid] Best, guys who could play at USC today, but Bears can't stack up man for man yet, especially on the defensive side.

If they get blown out at the Coliseum on Saturday, then Cal is going to have to reassess its situation in terms of competing with USC. What should worry Carroll? I would say mistakes by Sanchez or a fumble or a special teams return that can get Cal an early lead. I'm not sure Cal will be able to do much on the USC defense, but if the Bears can get ahead of Trojans, the way the Beavers did, 21-0, and make USC play catch-up then they have a shot. Keep the game close in the fourth quarter and see what happens. Hey, Stanford won at the Coliseum last year, why can't Cal?

USC does have one of the best set of linebackers in the country. How do the Trojans view the California linebacker core of Anthony Felder, Zack Follett and Worrell Williams?

I love the Cal linebackers, especially Follett and Williams, but that's probably USC's strongest position this year with Maualuga, Cushing and Maiava, but I think the Bears can almost match up there.


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