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Football News and Notes

With Rose Bowl practices underway USC now gets to focus squarely on Illinois. SC started to get healthy before the Arizona St. game and with a relatively healthy squad, except for Keith Rivers, after the ucla game they have more time to heal.

Hi finger may not be 100% but John David Booty feels like he is in a good spot coming into this game.

Despite a head cold, the senior looked mostly sharp Friday in the first of three consecutive days of practice that will culminate with a scrimmage Sunday.

Last season, Booty starred in the Rose Bowl, completing 27 of 45 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns in a 32-18 victory over Michigan.

"I feel I'm where I need to be for this time of the year, going into this game, just like I did last year," he said. "You get a couple weeks after that last [regular-season] game. You're not sore anymore when you get up in the morning."

Booty noticed a spring in teammates' steps as well.

"It's guys getting healthy, that's the big thing," he said. "You see guys who have been fighting through things just to play. . . . Now they're smiling and they're enjoying themselves again because they're healthy."

SC needs to be healthy for this game, Juice Williams is a good QB and the Illinois defense is pretty good as well so having everyone healthy will go a long way to having a strong a strong showing.

SC really is in a bit of a quandary here, a lot of pundits are not giving Illinois much of a chance because they were seen as a "second choice" once tOSU went to the BCS Title game. Not dominating Illinois will make the pundits look at USC with some skepticism on the other hand if they do dominate some will say that they should have beat Illinois handily. On the other side because no one is expecting much out of the Fighting Illini they are essentially playing with house money because they have nothing to lose.

The Illini had a media day Sunday before launching into a week of bowl game practices. The word "respect" kept popping up as much of the discussion centered on whether 13th-ranked Illinois can keep pace with the sixth-ranked Trojans.

Illinois Coach Ron Zook said he has also heard rumblings about the quality of play in the Big Ten this fall.

"Obviously there are things being said," Zook told reporters. "I think it's important that we go and prove to people that the Big Ten Conference plays some pretty good football."

Yes, we get it no one respects you. I know coach Zook will use that as inspiration to fire his team up but lets not get carried away. The fact is the Big 10 did play some bad football and Ohio States virtual backing in to the title game is proven by the less than tough schedule that they have played. This will be a great game and I expect both teams to come out trying set the tempo in their favor but while I won't say that this game will be a cakewalk for USC but I also won't say that they will experience another Stanford experience.

If USC expects to handle Illinois they need to have some top performances from players that had high expectations coming into this season. One of those is Patrick Turner, this was supposed to be his breakout season but a late injury in training camp got him off to slow start from which he never really recovered.

Turner has caught 48 passes for 569 yards and three touchdowns. He said Saturday that he would not mind finishing the season with Jarrett-type production on New Year's Day against Illinois.

"Everyone wants to go out and make a statement," said Turner, who confirmed that he would return for his final season. "You want to go out there and make all the catches in the world. It's the Rose Bowl."

Coach Pete Carroll said Turner played well down the stretch of the regular season, citing a clutch catch in the rain against California that helped preserve a victory.

Turner caught five passes against Arizona State and two against UCLA.

"He's come through well; I think he's finished on a real high note, and it would be great for him to have a solid game in this one too," Carroll said. "We're counting on him."

I think we are all counting on him to make his best effort to fill the shoes of one of the great USC receivers. The first thing he needs to do is keep his hands on the ball, catch the ball first, then worry about the run. It just seems that his concentration level is lacking. Turner isn't the only one, as Hazelton and Ausberry haven't had the best years either, but Turner was expected to the leader of the pack and carry most of the load and he has not lived up to those expectations.

Turner is going to have some competition next year with WR Damien Williams getting on the field along with QB Mitch Mustain. With Mustain and Sanchez fighting for the starting job both QB's will have a lot targets to throw to. I think that Mustain and Williams will bring a lot of fire to spring practice.

After being relegated to USC's scout team this season, quarterback Mitch Mustain and wide receiver Damian Williams were intent on leaving an impression in their final Rose Bowl workouts.

On Sunday, the Arkansas transfers put on a show, displaying the connection that made them a formidable duo in high school and during their freshman seasons in the Southeastern Conference.

Mustain directed several scoring drives, and Williams made spectacular catches during an 84-play situational scrimmage that marked the end of the Trojans' second series of Rose Bowl practices.

"There's a chemistry there; it was exciting to see how obvious it was," Coach Pete Carroll said. "They've been playing together since they were little kids, and it showed today."

These guys know each others skills and already have a rhythm in place so I expect to see a lot of interesting things come spring ball. I have been honest in my support for Mustain, his time as a starter in Arkansas has shown that the kid is a gamer and he knows how to win. He was undefeated as a starter and that will go a long way as he competes for the starting job.

I look forward to seeing how things turn out.