Limping in L.A.

It's like comparing a quasar to a black hole. USC has won 15 straight games, 18 straight in the venerable L.A. Coliseum, and 10 straight PAC-10 affairs. They have that elusive BCS title game in their sights, and don't have a single ranked team left on their schedule. Their BSC ranking is a shade short of perfection (.991). They're selling out the place. Without the NFL, they're the talk of tinseltown.

Washington (0-3, 1-5) at No. 1 Southern California (3-0, 6-0)
Saturday, October 23 - 3:35 PM (PDT) – FOX SPORTS
L.A. Coliseum (90,500) – Los Angeles, CA
Series All-time: USC leads, 44-26-4
Last Meeting: October 25, 2003 - USC 43, Washington 23
Line: USC by 35

Meanwhile, it's the first time in 28 years that a Washington team has faced the Trojans sporting a losing record. And this one is striding a path to endure the worst season at Montlake since Jim Owens' 1973 squad went 2-9 – a squad that didn't win a single conference game. The losses are mounting, injuries keep occurring at a mind-numbing rate and the talk is not of tinsel, but of termination.

Keith Gilbertson is succinct – and correct - in his assessment of top-ranked USC. He is also going to try to make the best of it, since the PAC-10 conference and Fox Sports Net deem they must kick off at 3:35 on Saturday in Los Angeles. "We are playing the best team in the country and a team that's loaded with talent," he told the press on Monday. "Well-coached, and steeped in tradition. They just make everything look so easy ... they have it all."

"We try to hang in there and compete – and I think we've done that. So what the heck, let's just let it fly."

USC coach Pete Carroll knows that his juggernaut is probably through the toughest part of their schedule and is coming off a dynastic 45-7 victory over ASU, but it still has five rounds to spar before booking a flight to Miami for the title fight. His battle now is to keep his defending champs focused on their roadwork. "We've got our mantra how we go about this," says Carroll, "we just have to stay with it and make sure that we don't get off the chart anywhere."

"Our confidence is high, and our guys are feeling good about what they're doing. Hopefully, we can crescendo all the way to the end (of the season)."

Carroll was obligated during his press conference to deliver the customary ‘have versus have-not' soliloquy, and he did so with aplomb. "They've awfully banged up, it seems," he acknowledged of the injury-riddled Huskies, "and the coaching staff has issues they have to fix in the personnel because of that."

"But Washington has shown enough spark in games to make us concerned about what they can do to us with their offense," Carroll continued. "We're looking to get their best game, and they're going to bring it.

"We're going to make sure we get prepared for it."

The last two meetings between the schools were 20-point conquests (pardon the pun) for the Trojans - 41-21 in Los Angeles, and last year's 43-23 win at Husky Stadium. And the gap this year is ever-wider.

True, bigger shocks have occurred. USA over the Soviets. Douglas over Tyson. Upset over Man O' War (bringing the term "upset" into the sporting vernacular). Oregon State over Washington (circa 1985).

David over Goliath.

Too bad security will be checking for slingshots at the Coliseum gates.

TEAM STATS:  35.7 points, 412.3 yards
             (4th PAC-10, 164.3 rush, 248.0 pass)
             23-33 in Red Zone offense (.697, 7th PAC-10) 

RUSHING:     LenDale White 84-455-5 TD (5.4), long 43 
             Reggie Bush 64-374-3 TD (5.8), long 66
PASSING:     Matt Leinart 112-172-3 (.661),
             1411 yards, 14 TD 
RECEIVING:   Steve Smith 27-414-2 TD (15.3), long 51
             Dwayne Jarrett 22-328-6 TD (14.9), long 52
             Reggie Bush 17-247-5 TD (14.5), long 53

It's been a simple reload for offensive coordinator Norm Chow's charges.

Despite losing his top three receivers from 2003 and having three new offensive linemen, junior All-American Matt Leinart has even been better this season, completing 65 percent of his passes with a TD/INT ratio of 14/3. In 19 career starts, Leinart – this week's reigning National Player of the week - has tossed for 52 scores, averaging a TD for every 11 pass attempts. The lefty shredded Washington in Husky Stadium last year, going 19-for-29 for 351 yards and four touchdowns.

It's not Colbert and Williams out wide anymore, but sophomores Steve Smith and Chris McFoy have had been steady, combining for 42 catches and two scores. Smith broke his leg in the Cal victory two weeks ago, so up stepped true freshman Dwayne Jarrett, who caught three TD passes and totaled 139 receiving yards in the ASU romp. The 6-5 Jarrett has found paydirt six times in his 22 receptions. Though 2003 starter Gregg Guenther is now concentrating on basketball, senior TE Alex Holmes did return from a year-long injury, keeping the position experienced. Holmes has 68 career catches.

In their 19 games together, LenDale White and Reggie Bush have combined for 2,100 yards and 24 touchdowns. White is "Thunder" and Bush "Lightening" – and both average well over five yards per carry. The mercurial Bush caught three TD passes against Virginia Tech, and has even thrown one pass – a 52-yard scoring strike to Jarrett last week. In Coach Chow's "pony" package, both will be on the field at the same time. Bush likes it that way - "(White) softens ‘em up, then I run by them." And they'll be around for at least one more year.

The starting Trojan offensive line averages 317 pounds, let by huge right tackle Taitusi Lutui (370), a JuCo All-American, and senior guard John Drake (350). Sophomore Ryan Kalil is in his first starting stint at center. A champion's luxury, USC has started the same front five in every game, and the unit has given up 12 sacks.

GAME OUTLOOK: Troy's red-zone percentage isn't the best – but they get there more often than any other team in the conference. And while Washington leads the PAC-10 in red-zone defense, they've given up so many long-distance TDs that it renders the comparison moot. No getting around it – Reggie Bush is fun to watch and will almost be impossible to stop.

TEAM STATS:     12.5 points, 296.0 yards
                (2nd PAC-10, 87.8 rush, 208.2 pass)
                9-13 in Red Zone defense (.692, 2nd PAC-10)

TACKLES/TFL:    Lofa Tatupu 50/9.0
                Dallas Sartz 27/1.0
                Matt Grootegoed 27/1.0    

PASSES DEF/INT: Lofa Tatupu 7/1
                Matt Grootegoed 4/4 
                Darnell Bing 3/2 
SACKS:          Shaun Cody 6.0
                Mike Patterson 4.5
                Lawrence Jackson 4.0

The NCAA leader in rushing defense and second in turnover margin a year ago, this edition of Coach Carroll's defense – remember, he's his own coordinator - had a tough act to follow. But with five new starters, USC is doing just fine with the sequel. The stop unit has converged for 29 sacks, 20 pass breakups, eleven interceptions, eight fumble recoveries, and averages nine tackles-for-loss per game. Yikes.

Interior stalwarts Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson once again lead the wrecking crew up front. Combined, the two have 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles-for loss in 2004 – Patterson was named the National Defensive POW for his 11-tackle, two fumble-recovery performance against California. Whenever Cody slides over to end, big Manuel Wright gives USC three down linemen rivaling any offensive line. RS-freshman Lawrence Jackson has four sacks crashing from the end.

Senior Butkus finalist Matt Grootegoed moved over to the weak side this year, and has found it to his liking with four interceptions over five games. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu leads the team in tackles for a second straight year, plus has seven pass-defenses. Strongside ‘backer Dallas Sartz filled in for an injured Grootegoed last year, and has kept right on ticking with 67 career tackles.

Safeties Darnell Bing and Jason Leach share 50 tackles and four turnovers between them, and when Bing couldn't go against Stanford, JuCo All-American Scott Ware stepped in for a career-best 12 tackles. Senior corner Kevin Arbet – now in his sixth season of eligibility – returned an interception 66 yards again Stanford.

GAME OUTLOOK: The Trojans have faced the other pretenders to the PAC-10 throne in California (41 points a game) and Arizona State (30 points), holding them to 17 and seven points respectively. The Huskies average a meager 16 points a game, and are ninth in the conference in total offense. There's a very real danger of Washington's 271-game non-shutout streak going the way of their 27 consecutive years of non-losing, as USC seeks to blow up the Husky running game and force Stanback and Co. to try and beat them through the air.

PLACEKICKING:  Ryan Killeen 6-10 FG (long 42), 28-28 XP
PUNTING:       Tom Malone 21-45.0 (long 62),
               .333 inside the 20
KICK RETURNS:  Reggie Bush 11-28.6 (long 84), 0 TD
               Desmond Reed 2-18.0 (long 21), 0 TD 
PUNT RETURNS:  Reggie Bush 13-12.9 (long 41), 0 TD

Senior place-kicker Ryan Killeen is a two-time PAC-10 special-teams Player-of-the-week honoree in his three Trojan seasons. He's a career 70-percenter from three-point range (career best of 48 yards), and last year he set the PAC-10 record for extra-points in a season with 65. Junior all-American punter Tom Malone's 45-yard average is dead on his career average, and 40-percent of those kicks have traveled 50 yards or better. USC ranks second in the nation in net punting.

Reggie Bush is a threat to break any kick, with a fanciful 28-yard career kickoff-return average - including a 96-yarder in 2003 against UCLA. It wouldn't surprise if Washington simply kicked it away from him – with his darting ability he's liable to reach the 35-yard line anyway.

GAME OUTLOOK: Washington is a woeful 3-7 in field-goals, though they did block their first kick of the season last week – but like most of the turnovers they've created it resulted in zero points. USC also has just one kick block all year, though Shaun Cody has five field-goal blocks in his career. Killeen is accurate, Malone might be the nation's best long-distance punter, and neither Washington kicker has been either for the better part of the season.


The Huskies are 1-6-1 all-time against No.1-ranked AP teams. They've dropped the last three by a combined 140-28 ... Though it won't be a sellout, upwards to 85,000 could be in attendance. USC has sold out its last two home contests, and will easily shatter the all-time PAC-10 home attendance record for a season (which the Trojans set last year) ... Running backs David Kirtman (Mercer Island) and Sean Kelly (Bellarmine), and backup kicker Taylor Odegard are the only Washingtonians on the Trojan roster. Kirtman carried four times for 24 yards last week against the Sun Devils ... The Trojans simply know how to start and finish. They've only given up 10 first-quarter points and a paltry three points in final frame ... Trojan Heisman winner (and current AD) Mike Garrett's number 20 has been retired by the school. So why does Darnell Bing wear it? Garrett gave him special permission ... Wanna read all about the football life of Matt Leinart? He keeps a daily web log at ... Think that the Fox Sports Net broadcast of the game will be fully impartial? Former USC running back and current LA talk-show host Petros Papadakis will be doing the color with Barry Tompkins ... Mostly sunny and high 60's are expected Saturday in Los Angeles ...
Rick Samek can be reached at Top Stories