NCF Nation: Kevin Thomas

We're counting down this week through the top 50 most-painful losses in the history of college football. Some programs will make multiple appearances. Some will make none.

But every program has a loss that makes fans clench their fists thinking about it. Here are game's with strong cases to be the most painful in each Big 12 team's history.

Baylor -- 27-24 loss to UNLV in 1999

Not much competition here. Baylor had the ball on the UNLV 8-yard line and needed to kneel to win. But it ran a play and UNLV linebacker Tyler Brickell slapped a fumble loose and cornerback Kevin Thomas scooped and scored from 100 yards out in the game's final second to beat the Bears in Waco. Baylor also lost to Boston College the week before on a missed extra point in overtime.

Colorado -- 21-6 loss to Notre Dame in 1990 Orange Bowl

The game was scoreless at halftime, but the Buffaloes gave up a pair of third-quarter touchdowns. Colorado got to within 14-6, but the Fighting Irish used a seven-plus minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to take the bowl of oranges back to South Bend.

Iowa State -- 17-14 loss to Missouri in 2004

You read about this one earlier this week: The Cyclones were denied a berth in the Big 12 title game by the Tigers, who capitalized on the Cyclones' walk-on kicker Bret Culberson missing a 24-yard field goal to win the game. An interception in the end zone sent Colorado to the Big 12 title game after Missouri opened the scoring in overtime with a 25-yard field goal.

Kansas -- 15-14 loss to Penn State in the 1968 Orange Bowl

This game came in at No. 38 on our list. Penn State coach Joe Paterno went for two points and the win after a late touchdown, but Kansas annulled an incomplete pass -- by defending it with 12 men. The Nittany Lions punched in a win on the next play from just outside the end zone.

Kansas State -- 36-33 loss to Texas A&M in the 1998 Big 12 championship game

Wildcats coach Bill Snyder carries the title of one of the best coaches never to win a national championship. This game, No. 21 on our list, is a big reason why. Kansas State blew a 27-12 fourth-quarter lead, finished off by an Aggies two-point conversion with 1:05 to play. The Wildcats lost in double overtime and never got to play Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl for a national championship.

Missouri -- 45-38 loss in overtime to Nebraska in 1997 or 33-31 loss to Colorado in 1990

Tough to pick a winner (loser?) between two of the most improbable finishes in college football history. The Nebraska loss, dubbed the "Flea Kicker," only made it to overtime after Matt Davison slid to catch a ball that was kept alive in the end zone by an inadvertent (maybe) kick. The Huskers won in overtime, denying Missouri its first win over the Huskers since 1978. Against Colorado, the rules of football were briefly rewritten to give the Buffaloes a "Fifth Down" to punch the ball into the end zone from the 1-yard line to beat Missouri en route to a national championship.

Nebraska -- 31-30 loss to Miami in the 1984 Orange Bowl

Sometimes the right call doesn't work. Nebraska coach Tom Osborne went for two and the win after bringing the game to within one point with 31 seconds to play. The Huskers rallied from 17-0 and 31-17 deficits, but Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill's pass was tipped away, denying the Huskers a national championship.

Oklahoma -- 35-31 loss to Nebraska in 1971

A game billed as the "Game of the Century," No. 2 Oklahoma took a 31-28 lead over No. 1 Nebraska with seven minutes to play, but the Huskers took the lead back for good with a 12-play, 74-yard drive for the win on Thanksgiving.

Oklahoma State -- 20-10 loss to Colorado in 1976

The Cowboys led 10-6 with two minutes to play and stopped a Colorado drive with an interception deep in their own territory. Oklahoma State fumbled the return and gave the Buffaloes the ball at the 1-yard line, where they took the lead with 43 seconds to play. They also intercepted a pass on the next drive and returned it for a touchdown. The loss cost the Cowboys the tiebreaker in a three-way tie for the Big Eight title and a berth in the Orange Bowl.

Texas -- 10-9 loss to Georgia in the 1984 Cotton Bowl

No. 2 Texas led No. 7 Georgia 9-3 late, and fearing a fake punt, Texas left its defense on the field. Texas DB Craig Curry tried to field the punt anyway but fumbled, giving the Bulldogs the ball on the Texas 23. That game was the same night as Nebraska's loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl, and a Texas win would have likely meant a national title.

Texas A&M -- 31-6 loss to Arkansas in 1975

This game came in at No. 29 on our list. The Aggies were 10-0 and hoping for a Southwest Conference title after 15 losing seasons in 16 years from 1958-73. Arkansas took the game and cost Texas A&M a national title, a league title and a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

Texas Tech -- 65-21 loss to Oklahoma in 2008

The Red Raiders came to Owen Field two weeks removed from an upset win over top-ranked Texas in Lubbock and held both a 10-0 record and the nation's No. 2 ranking. Thirty-five second-quarter points by the No. 5 Sooners ended that and sent Texas Tech to the locker room down 42-7. There'd be no national, Big 12 or even outright Big 12 South title for the Red Raiders in 2008 after a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South kept Texas Tech out of the Big 12 title game. The season finished with a disappointing loss in the Cotton Bowl to Ole Miss, but the Red Raiders beat the Sooners 41-13 in Lubbock the next year, taking out a few of their frustrations.
At what position is the Pac-10 deep? At what position in the Pac-10 thin? Here's the second of three parts taking a look at just that.

(By the way, some of you wondered about QB. The Pac-10 is, without question, the nation's deepest conference in terms of quarterbacks -- and it would have been deeper if not for a certain Duck making a very, very poor decision. But that's so obvious and been written about so much that we're not including it in this three-part package).

Deep: Running back

[+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireJacquizz Rodgers is one of several talented running backs returning to the Pac-10 this season.
Why is it deep? Six of the top-10 running backs from 2009 are back, and four of them rushed for more than 950 yards. Eight teams welcome back a player who qualifies as a starter or at least an experienced veteran. Only Arizona State and Stanford, which is replacing Heisman Trophy runnerup Toby Gerhart, are uncertain at the position. But it's not just about starters. There's depth. Most teams can point to one or more solid backups, not to mention there are a number of elite incoming freshmen recruits expected to immediately contribute.

The big names: Start with Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, the conference's top Heisman Trophy candidate, and Oregon's LaMichael James, who has All-American potential. They combined for just under 3,000 yards and 35 TDs in 2009. Then there's Washington's Chris Polk (1,113 yards rushing), California's Shane Vereen (952 yards, 12 TDs) and Arizona's Nic Grigsby, who rushed for 1,153 yards in 2008. The Wildcats, in fact, have their top four rushers back, including Keola Antolin, who's rushed for over 1,100 yards and 14 TDs over the past two seasons. USC and UCLA are both experienced in the backfield and have highly rated freshmen recruits who figure to be in the mix, particularly USC's Dillon Baxter, who was spectacular this spring. Washington State has three of its top four rushers back.

Thin: Cornerback

Why is it thin? Three of the four All-Pac-10 cornerbacks are gone: UCLA's Alterraun Verner, California's Syd'Quan Thompson and USC's Kevin Thomas. Each of them were NFL draft picks. Only second-teamer Trevin Wade of Arizona returns. In fact, only one returning CB even earned honorable mention all-conference recognition (Washington's Desmond Trufant). Only Oregon, Stanford and Washington welcome back both starting CBs from 2009, and each of them is hardly settled at the position after spring practices. Arizona State and USC are replacing both corners, though the return of Omar Bolden from injury and Shareece Wright from academic ineligibility should bolster the Sun Devils and Trojans, respectively.

Fill the void? Wright might turn out to be the conference's best cover corner and a top NFL draft pick. Wade had five interceptions last year and could earn national attention. Bolden had a great spring after missing last season with an injury and suffering through a disappointing sophomore year. Trufant, UCLA's Sheldon Price, USC's Torin Harris and Oregon's Cliff Harris are youngsters who might break through. Oregon's Talmadge Jackson and Oregon State's James Dockery are veterans who could take the next step.
The NFL draft teaches hard lessons. Two USC players are learning that now: Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen.

Mays would have been a first-round pick last year. I know folks believe his perceived weaknesses would have revealed themselves on film Insider then just as they did this season. But the 2008 USC pass defense was simply extraordinary in large part because of Mays playing an intimidating and impenetrable center field.

So Mays blew it by coming back for his senior season. And he now knows this.

As for you, San Francisco 49ers fans: Didn't you guys do fairly well a few years back with another hard-hitting former USC safety? I got a $5 bill right here that says Mays is going to become an outstanding NFL safety.

Griffen is another story: First-round talent with questions about his attitude and work ethic. (Keep this in mind about Mays: his work ethic couldn't be any better).

Who would have thought that Washington's Daniel Te'o-Nesheim would go before Griffen? Te'o-Nesheim is superior to Griffen in only one way but its a critical one: motor. Griffen's is questionable, Te'o-Nesheim's is not.

The lesson here is that being good isn't enough. The NFL cares about the entire package. And NFL teams don't want players who aren't self-starters, who don't motivate themselves.

Take note incoming five-star recruits.

Here are the Pac-10 picks to this point (11:15 a.m. ET ).

First round
DE Tyson Alualu, California, Jacksonville (10)
RB Jahvid Best, California, Detroit (30)

Second round
DT Brian Price, UCLA, Tampa (35)
S T.J. Ward, Oregon, Cleveland (38)
TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, New England (42)
S Taylor Mays, USC, San Francisco (49)
RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, Minnesota (51)
OT Charles Brown, USC, New Orleans (64)

Third round
TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, Baltimore (70)
WR Damian Williams, USC, Tennessee (77)
LB Donald Butler, Washington, San Diego (79)
DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, Houston (81)
DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, Philadelphia (86)
OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, Cleveland (92)
CB Kevin Thomas, USC, Indianapolis (94)

Fourth round
DE Everson Griffin, USC, Minnesota (100)
CB Alterraun Verner, UCLA, Tennessee (104)
CB Walter Thurmond, Oregon, Seattle (111)
RB Joe McKnight, USC, New York Jets (112)
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC's defense ranks 16th in the nation in scoring and total defense. That's pretty good. But two weeks ago, it ranked fourth in scoring and sixth in total defense and hadn't surrendered a touchdown pass.

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
Defensive coordinator Rocky Seto said mental lapses were to blame for the big plays the Trojans have given up recently.
Over the past two weeks, in wins over Notre Dame and Oregon State, the Trojans have surrendered five touchdown passes. And 849 yards and 63 points.

That's not so good.

The No. 5 Trojans visit No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in the Pac-10 game of the year. The Ducks' offense ranks 16th in the nation with 34 points a game, despite scoring just eight in their season-opening loss at Boise State.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Trojans first-year defensive coordinator Rocky Seto.

So give me your general impression of how the defense has played so far?

Rocky Seto: Pretty well, considering all the new faces we've got in there. But we need to continue to get better. But I've been pleased and I just thank God for the type of coaches and players we have. The coaches have done an awesome job of teaching and the players have done an awesome job of learning. There have been a lot of new experiences for a lot of players, so it's been really neat to see.

You guys have given up some yards the past two weeks, particularly in the passing game. Is that a concern and what's going wrong?

RS: Certainly, we'd like to improve in that way. We've really examined it. We've played two really good quarterbacks in [Jimmy] Clausen, a really experienced guy, and [Sean] Canfield, with two excellent coaching staffs. The big thing about it is usually when the breakdowns have happened, we've made a few mental errors. We've talked to them about focusing on not giving those things up. It's been a big emphasis for us.

Who's playing particularly well right now?

RS: You know who's doing a really good job is the defensive line. It's putting pressure on the quarterback. In the linebacking corps, Mike Morgan is doing a really good job. It's been neat to see. Taylor [Mays] has done a really nice job of staying on top and taking care of the deep ball. Kevin Thomas, our left cornerback, has really come around the last couple of weeks.

Has anything surprised you about the defense, or your personnel this season?

RS: I don't know if it's a surprise or shock because we base our performance on how we practice, how we play in practice. Our offense is really talented, so we feel if we can practice really well against them we should expect to play well. In spring practice and fall camp, these guys really performed well. So I don't know if it's a surprise or not, but it's been neat to see the young guys, the new starters, perform and fit into their new roles.

How does it work between you and Pete Carroll on game days? What role do you play in terms of calling the defense?

RS: Coach [Carroll] calls the defenses and basically I add as much input as I can when he asks me. We have a conversation that keeps going on. Really, it's been pretty neat. Ever since I've been a graduate assistant with him, eight or nine years ago, he's been a mentor for me and has taken time to have conversations with me. It hasn't changed much really since we've gotten together. It's been such a blessing to me. It's a constant conversation throughout the game and throughout the week.

What's he like during a game: Is he all business or does he joke around and act like the Pete Carroll most of us see on a day-to-day basis?

RS: He's pretty much on business. However, he'll slip in his personality. He's very poised. He doesn't change too much. But he is very serious on game day, but not to the point he doesn't do much. His personality certainly shows up.

He seems to be enjoying himself during games -- a lot of coaches adopt the stone face.

RS: No doubt. He gets fired up when the offense or defense makes a nice play. It's something he demands from our players -- that they have a good time. If you watch our sidelines, our guys are pretty in tune to what's going on and get pretty fired up. It's just how we conduct ourselves -- our meetings, our practices. It's based on coach's personality.

Give me a scouting report on Oregon.

RS: These guys are an excellent running team, a spread-option team. [Quarterback Jeremiah] Masoli has done a really nice job of running the offense. He looks really poised and composed in there. And he's a fiery guy. He's really impressive. He does some really nice play-action passes where he's been able to hit his targets well, particularly the tight end and [receiver Jeff] Maehl. They do a nice job of running the ball really well and throwing the ball, all of it. A bunch of screens. They get you spread out and try the wide-receiver screen, the tight end screen to Ed Dickson. They've mixed all those concepts really well together.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's the player, school or coach that "done you wrong" once upon a time -- or maybe even repeatedly.

These figures resonate through the years for rival schools, providing an enemy that serves as a unifying element for hatred from fans of a rival school.

Here's a list of Big 12 villains over the years, both historic and present. Take a good look at the grouping and see if you have any recommendations of players or coaches I might have missed.

I'd be curious to see if any coaches or players spark greater antagonism than the ones I've selected.

Baylor Bears

Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who's gone 11-0 against them with no signs of stopping.

All-time villain: Former Baylor coach Kevin Steele. His decision to try to ram in a statement touchdown against UNLV in 1999 blew up in his face like an exploding cigar when Darrell Bush fumbled and Kevin Thomas raced 99 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game. That play snatched a sure victory from the Bears, making Steele and the Bears the laughingstock of college football. His program never recovered from that moment.

Colorado Buffaloes

Current villain: Wyoming coach Dave Christensen, who piled up 106 straight points against the Buffaloes in the last two seasons while offensive coordinator at Missouri, beating them by a combined 113-10 margin. The Buffaloes will have a chance for payback this season when Christensen brings a less-talented Wyoming team to Boulder.

All-time villain: Nebraska coach Tom Osborne directed the Cornhuskers to a career record of 21-3-1 against the Buffaloes during his coaching stint from 1973-97.

Iowa State Cyclones

Current villain: Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing has thrown seven career TDs against the Cyclones and beaten them twice, including last season's dramatic 35-33 comeback victory.

All-time villain: Iowa coach Hayden Fry, whose homespun witticisms weren't that funny for Cyclone fans when he was winning 15 straight against them from 1983-97.

Kansas Jayhawks

Current villain: Nebraska DT/FB Ndamukong Suh who beat the Jayhawks with a memorable offensive and defensive performance last season and is back for more in 2009.

All-time villain: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder beat the Jayhawks 12 of his last 13 seasons in his first coaching run, including a nine-season streak where he rolled up 41, 38, 48, 54, 50, 52, 40, 64 and 42 points in consecutive blowout victories.

Kansas State Wildcats

Current villain: Kansas running back Jake Sharp grew up only 61 miles from Manhattan in nearby Salina, but has abused them since arriving at college. He's tormented them with five career touchdowns, including four last season.

All-time villain: Texas A&M running back Sirr Parker, whose dramatic game-winning touchdown in overtime snuffed out the Wildcats' national-title hopes in 1998.

Missouri Tigers

Current villain: Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford has beaten the Tigers in the Big 12 title game each of the last two seasons, ruining their hopes for a first Big 12 title.

All-time villain: Colorado coach and former Missouri grad and assistant Bill McCartney should have been magnanimous after getting a gift victory over the Tigers en route to a shared 1990 national title. Instead, he sparked hostility among his old friends by ripping Faurot Field's "treacherous" playing field.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Current villain: Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel talked a lot of smack and then backed it up by beating the Cornhuskers in each of the last two seasons. And after orchestrating a 52-17 victory in Lincoln last season, he raised the hackles of Cornhusker fans by complaining about Nebraska players spitting on him. He'll be gone this season, but definitely not forgotten among Cornhusker fans.

All-time villain: Oklahoma. Even though the rivalry was marked by immense respect on both sides -- imagine Barry Switzer doing Nebraska television commercials and endorsing Nebraska gubernatorial candidate Tom Osborne -- the Sooners' domination was a constant source of irritation for the Cornhuskers. Oklahoma claimed 16 straight from 1943-59 and beat Osborne in eight of his first nine games against them.

Oklahoma Sooners

Current villain: Those pesky BCS bowls. The Sooners have lost five-straight BCS games, stripping coach Bob Stoops of much of his national stature that should have been gleaned from an unprecedented three-straight Big 12 titles.

All-time villain: Darrell Royal represented the ultimate turncoat to Sooner fans after starring at the school from 1946-49 as a record-setting quarterback and defensive back. His 12-7-1 career record against the Sooners included eight straight victories and 12 of his 14 games against them that made his old friends despise him.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Current villain: Texas coach Mack Brown, who has run off an 11-0 record against them. Worse, four of those victories were by four points or less, including the last two games.

All-time villain: Oklahoma. The cross-state rivals have turned the "Bedlam Series" into a one-sided affair with a 74-16-7 edge. Since Josh Fields orchestrated back-to-back upsets in 2001-02, Stoops hasn't called off the dogs in six-straight victories, exploding for 52, 38, 42, 27, 49 and 61 points.

Texas Longhorns

Current villain: The Big 12's tiebreaker rules. Texas fans are still lamenting the national-title shot that got away last season, despite beating Big 12 title game participants Oklahoma and Missouri.

All-time villain: Jackie Sherrill. He beat them regularly at Texas A&M and continued his success at Mississippi State. Even worse, he fired up his team before that 1991 victory by castrating a steer and then crowed about it after his Texas-taming success. Even more than Barry Switzer, Longhorn fans hate Sherrill.

Texas A&M Aggies

Current villain: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. He's beaten them seven of nine games, including four straight. And he's gigged them by mocking their traditions, their coaching, their quarterbacks, everything but "The Dixie Chicken."

All-time villain: Texas. All things burnt orange set off Aggie fans -- with good reason. Their team has been dominated by the Longhorns in the school's longest rivalry. And how much of a Texas fixation do the Aggies have? The second verse of the Aggie War Hymn is essentially all about Texas.

Texas Tech

Current villain: Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. Nobody in the conference does a better job of rolling up points or handcuffing Tech's offense than his Tigers, who have averaged 47 points and won by an average of 26.3 points per game during recent three-game winning streak in the series.

All-time villain: Texas A&M. Aggie fans chap Red Raider followers by claiming the game isn't a rivalry. Mike Leach has made it seem one-sided in recent seasons. But look closely enough and you'll find it's not unusual to see the A&M logo
adorning urinals in several bars in Lubbock. Isn't that the best sign of antipathy there is?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

We've discussed positions of concern a lot. But where are teams (almost) worry-free?

Here are some spots.

USC's offensive line: The Trojans welcome back all five starters, including the nation's best center, Kristofer O'Dowd. And, oh by the way, super-sophomore Tyron Smith might displace returning starter Butch Lewis at tackle. The Trojans averaged 195 yards rushing per game last year and surrendered only 18 sacks, fewest in the conference.

California's secondary: All four starters are back, including first-team All-Pac-10 cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson, from a unit that finished third in the nation with 24 interceptions and ranked sixth in pass efficiency defense. And the backups are so good that a couple of returning starters are hearing footsteps.

USC's secondary: Start with Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard, the best safety combination in the nation -- though Pinkard played corner last year. Sure, two starters -- Kevin Ellison and Cary Harris -- are gone. But three players -- safety Will Harris and corners Shareece Wright and Kevin Thomas -- have starting experience. And a couple of the youngsters turned in impressive springs.

Oregon State's quarterbacks: The Beavers have two successful starting quarterbacks in Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao, though Moevao is coming back from shoulder surgery. They also have an impressive No. 3 in redshirt freshman Ryan Katz, and Virginia transfer Peter Lalich is a wildcard who had disappeared before coming up big in the spring game. His questionable attitude won't help him climb the depth chart, though.

UCLA's tight ends: Ryan Moya earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors last year, and he was Logan Paulsen's backup until Paulsen's season ended with a foot injury in the opener against Tennessee. The Bruins also like sophomore Cory Harkey, and then there's touted freshman Morrell Presley, who's more a hybrid receiver-tight end. Lots of options here. Just got to get them the ball.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ever wonder what a coach might say about a quarterback competition the day before he announces a pecking order?

You're in luck!

USC coach Pete Carroll stopped by for a chat with the Pac-10 blog on Monday, the day before he announced on his Web site that Aaron Corp would emerge from spring practices No. 1 on the quarterback depth chart, ahead of true freshman Matt Barkley and Mitch Mustain.

 
  Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
  Pete Carroll boasts an 88-15 record since arriving at USC.

That bit of stolen thunder aside -- and the announcement was mostly a foregone conclusion -- it's never a bad time to talk with a coach who's 88-15 in eight years at USC and has finished ranked in the top four of the AP poll seven consecutive seasons.

After all, he's got a new book deal to benefit his charity, A Better LA, and a new Web site for kids.

And he's got a football team that likely will be favored to win its eighth consecutive Pac-10 championship and again compete for a national title.

Word on the street is you guys have an intense quarterback competition going on over there: Where does that stand?

Pete Carroll: Guys have really battled hard and done well. We're pleased with the play at the quarterback position. The competition is going to continue. We'll name a guy who's going to start the spring game for us and then the competition will just continue. We've got to call something here after a month of playing. We'll find out what happens when we get back to camp in the fall.

You've told me in the past you prefer to anoint a quarterback as early as possible to allow him to develop into a clear leader: How will that be a part of the decision in the fall?

PC: We'd like to do that [name a starter], but you've got to do the right thing and let the competition play itself out. What that means is, in the past when we named Matt Leinart over Matt Cassel, it meant that Leinart was going first and Cassel was battling him. The competition remained on. It will be the same situation. It's a very hard-fought, close competition and in fairness it's going to take longer to know exactly what we are going to do for the long haul.

It seems like running backs Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have asserted themselves this spring: Have they done enough to eclipse the established guys?

PC: I don't think there's any question Curtis McNeal has. Marc Tyler has been hurt most of the spring -- he's only had a couple of days when he's full speed. He's done well. But McNeal has taken advantage of the opportunity to be out there every day and he's really been effective.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It doesn't feel like USC played all that well or Arizona State all that badly, but the Trojans are up big, 21-0, at the break.

Obvious bottom line: You can't make mistakes and hang with USC.

Critical moment of the half: A play after the Sun Devils got lucky, winning a wild scramble and getting a first down following a Dimitri Nance fumble, Rudy Carpenter felt heat from a blitz and tried to use an outside route for his hot read. But he floated the ball -- perhaps his velocity was hurt by his bum ankle -- and Kevin Thomas broke on the ball and got a 46-yard pick-six.

Of course, the Trojans wasted the Sun Devils fumbled shotgun snap, failing to score after getting a first down on the ASU 15. But still those were plays when the Sun Devils should have been trying to chip into a 21-zip lead, not making a defensive stand.

The margin for error against USC is small, and losing the turnover battle makes it microscopic.

The biggest surprise is Arizona State is running fairly well: Nance has 49 yards on 11 carries. But how much can a team that trails USC by 21 at half continue to run the ball?

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

USC cornerback Shareece Wright, who's been in the news of late because he was charged with resisting arrest just before the Ohio State game, has a fractured vertebra and could miss up to six weeks of action.

Defense coordinator Nick Holt told me two weeks ago that Wright was the most underrated player on the Trojans defense, so this is a big loss as USC gets ready for a Thursday date with Oregon State on ESPN.

That said, USC is probably the nation's deepest team. Wright will be replaced by a player very familiar to USC fans -- Josh Pinkard -- an outstanding athlete who has suffered two serious knee injuries during his career. Pinkard has not started a game since the 2006 season opener at Arkansas.

A fifth-year senior, Pinkard has seen considerable action during the first two games in a rotation with Wright and starter Cary Harris and backup Kevin Thomas, who also has starting experience.

USC coach Pete Carroll previously told the LA Times that Wright would be disciplined internally for his arrest but -- before the extent of his injury was known -- that Wright would start at Oregon State.

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