USC (2-0) at Oregon State (1-2)

Cloudy Currently: Corvallis, OR
Temp: 57° F
  • Game info: 9:00 pm EDT Thu Sep 25, 2008
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Southern California traveled to the East Coast and crushed a team from the ACC, and followed that up by pounding a Big Ten opponent that was ranked fifth at the time.

Done humiliating non-conference opponents for a while, the top-ranked Trojans move on to where they’re even more dominant - Pac-10 play.

USC begins its quest for a seventh straight conference crown Thursday night, as it opens its Pac-10 schedule with its first visit to Oregon State since a stunning loss two years ago.

The Trojans (2-0) haven’t played since defeating then-No. 5 Ohio State 35-3 on Sept. 13 in what was billed as a showdown between two of the best teams in the country.

USC, however, made the Buckeyes look rather ordinary as it established itself as a favorite to win the national title.

“If we can keep this momentum going and we can keep our playmakers showing up, we’re going to be really tough,” USC coach Pete Carroll said.

That win came one week after the Trojans’ season-opening 52-7 victory at Virginia. USC has won in such convincing fashion in the early going that some are comparing it to the 2003 and ’04 national championship-winning Trojans squads led by Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush.

Carroll isn’t interested in entertaining those thoughts at this point.

“We’ve played two nice football games and that’s it,” Carroll said. “We’re not even through the first quarter of the season yet. To figure out how we compare is hasty.”

Carroll wants his team to focus first on getting through the conference schedule unscathed.

USC went 7-2 against the Pac-10 last season to win its sixth straight conference title - all under Carroll. The Trojans have won 44 of 50 conference games since their league title streak began in 2002, and have not dropped a Pac-10 opener since losing 34-31 at California in overtime in 2003.

USC defeated Oregon State 24-3 on Nov. 3, but in its last trip to Corvallis on Oct. 28, 2006, the then-No. 3 Trojans were shocked 33-31, ending the program’s 38-game regular-season winning streak.

The Trojans’ offense and defense are among the nation’s best as they return to Oregon State.

Mark Sanchez threw four touchdown passes against Ohio State, and has thrown for 510 yards, seven TDs and two interceptions this season.

Joe McKnight rushed for 105 yards on 12 carries last week after carrying the ball six times for 60 yards in the win over Virginia.

“He’s so explosive,” Sanchez said of McKnight. “When he’s got time, when he’s got a little space, anything can happen.”

USC has yielded the fewest points in the nation and is allowing 197.0 yards per game, second-best in the country. The defense has forced seven turnovers and recorded seven sacks.

“It’s just a really good football team,” Beavers coach Mike Riley said of USC. “It has a lot of speed and size. On defense they are overwhelming and on offense they are very balanced. That’s always very dangerous.”

Oregon State (1-2, 0-1) hasn’t played since a 45-7 victory over Hawaii on Sept. 13, finally winning after a season-opening 36-28 loss to Stanford on Aug. 28 and a 45-14 defeat to then-No. 19 Penn State on Sept. 6.

Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns against the Warriors, becoming the school’s first true freshman to run for 100 yards in a game since Steven Jackson in 2001 at USC. In his last two games, the 5-foot-7 Rodgers has rushed for 209 yards and four touchdowns.

Rodgers’ older brother, sophomore slot back James Rodgers, has 13 catches for 159 yards and a score this season.

“These are two fine kids,” said Riley, a former USC assistant coach, “and they’ve added a lot to our program already.”

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