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Stanford at USC - what the papers are saying

Some light Friday reading for you, in the form of other people's previews of this weekend's action against Stanford.

The LA Times suggests that Chauncey Washington, as last running back standing, is going to be carrying the load on offense this weekend:

USC's tailback corps is significantly thinned by injuries, but the senior is not among the hobbled.

Asked Thursday if he considered himself lucky, Washington chuckled and said, "I don't even want to think about it because it might happen to me."

Washington, who was plagued by injuries throughout last season and the start of this one, will make his third consecutive start Saturday against Stanford.

The LA Daily News, in the meantime, is focusing on the prospect of Joe McKnight making his presence known:

Is it Showtime yet?

USC can't wait for the unveiling. The Trojans have talked and talked, but so far, it's only been baby steps for Joe McKnight.

Soon, perhaps Saturday at the Coliseum against Stanford, we'll see McKnight walk the walk. And what a dazzling stroll it promises to be.

It seems that all anyone knows to this point is almost every time McKnight's name pops up, it's accompanied by two words: Reggie Bush.

The 6-foot, 180-pound McKnight, a soft-spoken kid from River Ridge, La., possesses flat-out speed and moves that might break an opponent's ankle.

McKnight has offered only glimpses of his act, but there was a familiar reverse-field run and a punt return that almost was broken for a touchdown against Washington State.

The fluid running style only heightens the anticipation among those who broach the subject. A running back who can turn a game around? A guy who already is zig-zagging through coverage teams on punt returns?

The fans want Reggie again.

They're not going to get him.

Up North, they're focusing on Tavita Pritchard getting the start against USC, in the wake of T.C. Ostrander having a seizure last weekend. From the SF Chronicle:

Doesn't the sophomore know that he's about to make his first start as the Stanford quarterback against No. 2 USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum? Doesn't he know his team is coming off a 41-3 loss to Arizona State? Doesn't he know how big this is, how hard it's going to be?

He knows. And he's still smiling.

"I love this game with all my heart," Pritchard said. "I'll love every minute of the minutes I get on Saturday."

And from the San Jose Mercury News:

[But] Pritchard doesn't appear to be shaking in his cleats. The redshirt sophomore says there's too much information to process for that.

"I'll probably feel butterflies before the game," said Pritchard, who has thrown three passes in college. "But, honestly, what's going to be going through my head are my checks and my audibles and the offense and my reads."

Still, it's an unthinkable challenge for a player who has not started a game since high school.

As for the columnist angle, the SF Chronicle's Ray Ratto wonders how much SC is going to pile on Stanford to make a point to Harbaugh and the pollsters:

From the moment Jim Harbaugh first decided to poke Pete Carroll's cage this summer, Oct. 6 has taken on a morbid significance. Stanford at USC, and You Guess The Score.

Before Harbaugh suggested that this would be Carroll's last season, maybe 38-14. The game's in L.A., Stanford is coming off a brutal season, USC's chasing a national championship ... yeah, 38-14 sounds about right.

Then Harbaugh became an agent provocateur, and jacked it up to 51-10. Then he said USC might be the greatest team in college football history, an even more gratuitous tweak, and suddenly you could hear the enamel on Carroll's teeth starting to curl. Now the game sounded like 66-7.

But now it's Game Week, and the news is only worse for the Cardinal. Quarterback T.C. Ostrander is out after having a seizure Sunday. Ekom Udofia, the team's best defensive lineman, blew out an ankle and will miss the game. The best offensive lineman, Allen Smith, has been out for a month with a knee injury. There are bumps and bruises throughout the depth chart, as happens when teams get beaten soundly every week.

And USC is coming off a ridiculous performance (by its standards) against Washington, and needs the medicinal benefits that come from a big win, lots of individual success and the punishments that comes from letting one's guard down in Seattle.

So what now? 77-0? 103-0? A thousand to nothing? Giving the 401/2 points and betting on USC definitely seems prudent.

Well, therein lies the twisted fascination. This can be as bad as Carroll wants to make it[...]

Meanwhile, the Mercury News' Jon Wilner has a piece of advice for Stanford:

Can we all agree that Stanford has zero chance to win? I mean, it's possible, in the same way hitting the Lottery is possible.

But in the real world, we're talking 45-3, 55-6 ... something along those lines.

That said, the key for Stanford this week is to only get beat once by USC.

In other words: The Cardinal cannot afford to get beaten so badly (emotionally but especially physically) that its chances of winning future games are affected.

Wilner then moves on to a more silly article, which is speculating about the odds of the Cal - USC game being a #1 - #2 matchup. Myself, I think SC should focus on beating Stanford first, without losing any more running backs and maybe only spotting them 80 yards in penalties.