Shocker: USC loses to an inferior opponent

To use a tried, true and albeit, tired phrase, there are three things we can count on in life: Death, taxes and Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans will be knocked off by an inferior opponent at some point during the season.

In 2006, the Oregon State Beavers were the unranked team to knock off USC. In 2007, it was Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Tree Logos. Last year, it was Oregon State again who provided the upset and on Saturday, it was Steve Sarkisian’s Washington Huskies (a team that didn’t win a game last year, mind you) that shocked the college football world by beating USC 16-13 in Seattle.

For the second year in a row, USC beat Ohio State and then lost to its very next opponent. The Trojans jumped out to a 10-0 lead against the Huskies, but Washington answered with 10 of their own before halftime before eventually pulling the upset off thanks to Erik Folk’s game-winning 22-yard field goal with only three seconds remaining.

The Trojans were playing without starting freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, who sat out the entire week of practice with an injured shoulder. Redshirt sophomore Aaron Corp made his first career start and while he wasn’t bad (he completed 13 of 22 passes for 110 yards and a pick), he couldn’t come up with the big play throughout the game. Joe McKnight rushed for 100 yards on 11 carries as USC racked up 250 rushing yards, but the Trojans lost two fumbles and when you combine those with Corp’s second half interception, turnovers killed Carroll’s team today.

But let’s give credit where credit is due. Sarkisian has completely turned around the mindset of the Washington program and now has the Huskies believing that they can win on any given Saturday. Junior quarterback Jake Locker is a fine player and can make things happen with both his arm and his legs.

Sarkisian has made Washington relevant again, while Carroll is left scratching his head for the fourth year in a row. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not Carroll sticks with Corp or goes with former Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain assuming Barkley can’t go next week against Washington State.

USC has never been more primed for the taking in the Pac-10. The big matchup in the conference will be October 3 when the Trojans travel to Berkley to face Cal.

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Aaron Corp to start for USC?

According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, backup quarterback Aaron Corp looks like he’ll make his first career start against Washington unless freshman Matt Barkley can recover from a bruised right shoulder.

Unless Barkley makes an improbable recovery from a bone bruise, Corp is on track to be under center when the Trojans open Pacific 10 Conference play on Saturday at Washington.

Corp, who had entered training camp No. 1 on the depth chart, had a pass intercepted for the third consecutive practice. But he continued to show that he was no longer limited by the cracked fibula that he suffered on Aug. 10, an injury that opened the door for Barkley to start the first two games.

Barkley was supposed to take part in a throwing session on Thursday but didn’t. I can’t imagine that Carroll would start a freshman quarterback on the road in USC’s Pac-10 opener – especially considering Corp is the backup.

If it weren’t for the cracked fibula that he suffered in summer practice, Corp would have likely been the starter for the Trojans at the start of the season. But now that Barkley has a win at Columbus on his resume, it’s going to be hard for Corp to unseat Barkley when the freshman is healthy.

That said, Corp is certainly good enough to stir up a quarterback controversy if he plays well this Saturday. Corp is smart, instinctive and a very accurate passer. Even though he’s had trouble with interceptions this week in practice, he usually doesn’t make many mistakes either. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays this weekend.

2009 CFB Preview: USC Trojans

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 4 in AP Top 25; No. 4 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: Aaron Corp (QB); Mitch Mustain (QB); Stafon Johnson (RB); Joe McKnight (RB); C.J. Gable (RB); Damian Williams (WR); Charles Brown; Anthony McCoy (TE); (OT); Butch Lewis (OT); Jeff Byers (G); Alex Parsons (G); Kristofer O’Dowd (C); Taylor Mays (S); Everson Griffen (DE); Drew McAllister (S); Kevin Thomas (CB).

Key Losses: Rey Maualuga (LB); Brian Cushing (LB); Fili Moala (DT); Mark Sanchez (QB); Kevin Ellison (S); Cary Harris (CB); Kaluka Maiava (LB); Clay Matthews (DE); Kyle Moore (DE); Patrick Turner (WR); David Buehler (K); Greg Woidneck (P).

Player to Watch: Matt Barkley, QB.
Barkley is the much-ballyhooed freshman who rather surprisingly beat out sophomore Aaron Corp and Mitch Mustain (a redshirt junior transfer from Arkansas) for the Trojans’ starting quarterback job this summer. Barkley will be the first freshman starting quarterback at USC during head coach Pete Carroll’s era, so the pressure is on. He’s a gunslinger in every sense of the word, which can be both good and bad. He has the arm strength to make every throw, but the knock on him is that he’ll try to force the ball into tight coverage and therefore has the penchant for throwing interceptions. The notion is that Corp (who is battling a leg injury) isn’t healthy enough to start the opener and therefore Carroll named Barkley the starter to instill confidence in the young signal caller. It’s unclear at this point if Carroll will stick with Barkley if he struggles early in the season, or if Corp will eventually take over.

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