Thursday, November 16, 2006

AP: League's coaches weigh in on Cal and USC showdown

While the nation buzzes about the Michigan-Ohio State game, out West the big game matches No. 4 USC against No. 17 California. The winner Saturday will get at least a share of the Pac-10 title and Bowl Championship Series bid. For USC, a win could increase its chances of a shot at the national championship. Ohio State and Michigan are undefeated and the top two teams in the Bowl Championship Series standings, with USC third. In the AP poll, USC is ranked fourth. Asked if the Trojans were a national championship-caliber team, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti quickly replied: "Absolutely. They are the best defense we've played against all season long." USC (8-1, 6-1) beat Oregon 35-10 last Saturday. Oregon State upset the Trojans 33-31 earlier this season, but before that were whipped by Cal 41-13.

"Wow," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "There's going to be a lot of speed on the field. It should be a very interesting matchup." The Golden Bears (8-2, 6-1) lost their opener to Tennessee and then last week 24-20 to Arizona. If Cal and USC end up with identical conference records at the end of the season, the winner of Saturday's game would have the tiebreaker. It gets tougher for the Trojans, who play No. 6 Notre Dame next week, also at the Coliseum, before finishing against crosstown rival UCLA at the Rose Bowl.  Cal has a break before ending the season on Dec. 2 in the Big Game against Stanford. Cal has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1958, a drought that would end if the Bears beat USC. Washington State coach Bill Doba was certain about one thing: The uncertainty of the outcome. "I wouldn't bet my house on either one of them, to be honest," he said.


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