|USC Legends News|
USC Understands This Week's Challenge
Don't expect that this weekend when the No. 9 Trojans (6-1, 3-1 Pac-10) visit No. 5 Oregon at Autzen Stadium. Conference standing is not the only issue; There could be national championship implications given the unpredictability of the season so far.
"This is the kind of stuff that really excites you about conference play. You have a team that's really hot, and you have to beat them if you're going to have a chance to win your league," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "They have all of the elements that draw your focus. They have got great players, and we're playing at a very tough place."
During a stretch of Pac-10 play, Southern Cal was less than dazzling in a 27-24 victory over Washington, was upset 24-23 by Stanford, and escaped with a 20-13 victory over an Arizona team that has won only two games so far.
UCLA and Arizona State are still unbeaten in conference and will play each other on Nov. 10. Oregon (6-1, 3-1) and USC each have one loss in the league, after Cal defeated the Ducks 31-24 at Autzen on Sept. 29.
The upshot to all of this? "We both have a lot at stake," USC tailback Stafon Johnson said. "Both of us can't afford to lose."
The game has widely been billed as a showdown between one of the nation's best offenses in Oregon and USC's powerful defense. The Trojans are allowing only 252 yards a game, while the Ducks average 551 yards with a speedy spread-option offense.
But Ducks coach Mike Bellotti suggested it may come down to something unexpected.
"The reality is, probably, our defense and their offense and both teams' special teams are going to have the biggest say," Bellotti said. "Typically in great football games I think special teams is the unsung hero, so to speak. And the bottom line is turnovers and takeaways."
USC settled a lingering question about its offense on Thursday when Carroll declared that Mark Sanchez would make his third start at quarterback.
John David Booty had thrown in practice but continued to nurse a broken middle finger on this throwing hand.
John David Booty did not have a setback in practice and will suit up Saturday.
"He's dressing to play. He'll warm up and be ready to go," Carroll said. "He didn't throw today. He won't throw tomorrow, either, to give him a little rest. We know he can play if he has to."
Sanchez passed for 130 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice against Arizona. The third-year sophomore improved in last weekend's 38-0 victory over Notre Dame, throwing for 235 yards and four TDs with no interceptions.
USC has won the last three games against the Ducks, including last year's 35-10 victory in Los Angeles. The Trojans have won their last two in Eugene.
It is the first time in Autzen Stadium's 41-year history that two top-10 teams will meet.
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