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It is a measure of Pete Carroll’s success at USC that the Trojans were seen as a disappointment in going 11-2 and winning the Rose Bowl last year. Such are the expectations surrounding a program that went 37-2 from 2003-05, with a pair of national titles. But as dominant as USC has been, the Trojans could not overcome a banged-up starting quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and a schedule that saw them face Oregon, Cal, and Arizona State, all on the road.
Fall camp has been trying for Carroll, as Sanchez missed time with a dislocated kneecap, and standout tailback Joe McKnight, the star of the Rose Bowl rout of Illinois, suffered a variety of injuries. USC is also plenty green, returning just 11 starters. Seven of those are on defense, however, where the Trojans have high-round NFL prospects at every level, including defensive tackle Fili Moala, linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga, and safety Taylor Mays.
Arizona State, coming off a surprising 10-win season in Dennis Erickson’s first year, still has quarterback Rudy Carpenter and a potent offense, but the Sun Devils’ leaky line must protect him. Oregon and Cal could also be in the mix if they can find consistency at quarterback.