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Monday, October 24, 2011
Revenge tour should motivate USC

By Ted Miller

Coaches and athletes are vindictive. You know it. I know it. It's the nature of competition to hold grudges against those who beat you. When athletes and coaches say last year's game doesn't matter, or they're not interested in revenge for some slight -- real or imagined -- reporters should be allowed to slap them on their foreheads for being so disingenuous.

I, for one, would enjoy that, though there are several players -- Vontaze Burfict, David DeCastro, to name a couple -- for whom I'd take a pass on the forehead slap, even if it were officially sanctioned.

We bring this up because USC's second-half schedule is so rife with revenge scenarios that it feels like Charles Bronson should take over for Matt Barkley at quarterback.

And it's already off to a good start for the 6-1 Trojans. Notre Dame? Check. The Trojans took revenge for their 20-16 loss last year, which ended an eight-game winning streak in the rivalry series, with a 31-17 pounding of the Fighting Irish last Saturday inside a Notre Dame Stadium brimming with 80,000 stunned fans.

That, however, is just the beginning. USC's "Revenge 2011?" tour continues Saturday with a visit from Stanford.

The Cardinal have won two in a row against USC. Last year, they broke the Trojans hearts, 37-35, with a game-winning field goal with four seconds left. And the year before, you might recall, was the "What's your deal?" game, with former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh running up the score in a 55-21 victory, including going for two when the game was well in hand. Further, the Trojans fifth-year seniors will remember the 24-23 loss in 2007 when Stanford was a 41-point underdog and USC was expected to be in the national title hunt.

Further, Barkley has been fairly honest about how he's competitive with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. This will be his last shot at him as the Trojans quarterback.

So, yes, the Trojans should have some feelings about the Cardinal.

Then, after playing Colorado, USC plays Washington, Oregon and UCLA on consecutive weekends.

USC has lost two in a row to Washington since former Trojans offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian took over in 2009. Sarkisian and USC coach Lane Kiffin are good buddies, which means Kiffin wants to beat him almost as much as he'd like to beat, say, Urban Meyer, who is not a good pal.

As for the Oregon, Chip Kelly's Ducks have whipped USC in consecutive games by 27 and 21 points. The Ducks also have displaced the Trojans as the Pac-12's preeminent power.

And, finally, USC could hammer the final nail into embattled UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel's coffin on Nov. 26. That's the sort of thing Trojans live for, right?

The big question for USC in the preseason was how would it maintain consistent motivation with no chance to play in the postseason due to NCAA sanctions. Well, they seemed to have saved their best football for the last two weeks, whipping California 30-9 the Thursday before the Notre Dame trip.

That maligned USC defense? It gave up just one touchdown apiece to Cal and Notre Dame. The vaunted Irish offense had just 267 yards and only 41 yards rushing.

The questionable running game? USC rushed for 219 yards at Notre Dame.

Sloppy play? USC had just two penalties and no turnovers against the Irish.

It would appear the Trojans are finding their rhythm under Kiffin. There's also good reason to believe they will be plenty motivated down the stretch, even without the postseason.

What does that mean?

Probably this: Be wary of the Trojans.