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Tuesday, November 11, 2008
2007 upset not an issue for USC-Stanford 2008

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

It was completely stunning, one of the biggest upsets of all time.

But neither coach seems to believe that Stanford's 24-23 victory last October holds any relevance for this year's reunion.

"Hopefully it will be a very emotional game," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "We want every one of them to be like that. This being a Pac-10 championship opportunity for us, we're going to bring everything we got, regardless of what happened in either direction the year before."

Present, shmesent -- let's look back for a moment.

Recall that Stanford was a 41-point underdog and was using first-time starter Tavita Pritchard at quarterback.

Recall that USC had won 35 consecutive home games and the Trojans outgained the Cardinal 459 yards to 235. And that USC led 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, Stanford's lone touchdown coming on an interception return.

Yet there was Stanford in the waning moments, improbably driving for the go-ahead score.

First, the Cardinal converted on fourth and 20 with 1:38 left. Then Pritchard hit Mark Bradford on fourth-and-goal from the 10 for the winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining.

It was mind-blowing and magical -- from the Cardinal perspective -- and worthy of stadium roars across the country as the score was posted.

Yet, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, when asked twice on Tuesday about last year, studiously redirected his response to the present.

"For us, it's an opportunity to play at the center stage of college football, not just to complete -- we know we are going to compete -- but to win," he said. "I would expect USC to be fired up -- fire in their eyes. I'd expect nothing less from our team."

Carroll will talk about last year. He's watched the film this week, but he didn't have to do that to relate where things went wrong for USC.

Quarterback John David Booty threw four interceptions in the second half after breaking a bone in his hand. Mark Sanchez would start the next three games, but he arrived a half too late.

"I played a quarterback with a broken bone in his throwing hand -- that's what went wrong" Carroll said with just a twinge of bitterness.

"John David really struggled in the second half of that game. We weren't playing great up until then, but he threw some picks in that game that he's never done before. I should have taken him out. I just made a mistake in judgment that he could perform at a level good enough for us to win. That was the big mistake on our part."

While the revenge angle is certainly present -- whether either coach acknowledges it or not -- most of the conventional analysis projects an easy afternoon for the Trojans.

Stanford, which needs one win over its final two games to become bowl eligible, ranks last in the Pac-10 in pass offense and pass defense.

USC has the best passing offense in the Pac-10 -- see 26 touchdown passes and a 65 percent completion rate. And USC ranks No. 1 in the conference in pass defense.

And run defense. And every kind of defense.

So Stanford's one-dimensional power running attack figures to struggle. Only one team -- Oregon State -- ran the ball successfully against USC.

Oregon had 307 yards rushing last weekend against Stanford. The Ducks rushed for 60 yards against USC.

And, of course, there's this: USC is 25-0 in November under Pete Carroll. Twenty-one of those wins have come by double-digits.

So, there's no way that Stanford can win.

Just like last year.

Recall that before last year's game USC also was supposed to riding an edgy and motivated angle.

Before he'd even coached a game, Harbaugh told CBS Sportsline that Carroll was going to leave USC after the 2007 season, that Carroll would "...be there one more year. That's what I've heard. I heard it inside the staff."

That comment bothered Carroll and was supposed to drive him to pound the first-year Cardinal coach.

Recall that it didn't go that way.