By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 12, 2004
Southern California (9-0)
Team Nickname: Trojans
Location: Los Angeles
2003 Record: 12-1 (7-1 Pac-10)
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
Player to Watch: RB Reggie Bush
Forget the idea Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart and running back Reggie Bush are both Heisman Trophy candidates.
Ignore the fact that the Trojan offense is scoring nearly 36 points a game on almost 420 yards with their two superstars.
One of the major reasons USC is on track to repeat as national champion lies on the other side of the football.
As impressive as the Trojan offense has been this season, USC's defense has been even more imposing, especially the defensive line.
"That's the greatest challenge," Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said about facing the Trojans' front four. "The lines of scrimmage is where you see the difference in a lot of people. They have one of the premier defensive lines in college football. That makes it very disruptive any time you have a defensive line as fast and talented as they are."
Senior defensive lineman Shaun Cody anchors the Trojans' defensive front and is one of four finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top collegiate lineman.
Cody is one of USC's team captains and has split time between end and tackle on the defensive line, recording 31 tackles.
He is currently third in the Pacific 10 Conference in sacks with eight and has 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick.
"He has just been a pillar in this program," said USC head coach Pete Carroll in a press conference in Los Angeles earlier this week. "He has been that guy who has come through when we need him throughout his career."
Right alongside Cody has been fellow senior defensive tackle Mike Petterson.
The pair have fed off each other and Petterson is seeing similar success as Cody, recording 33 tackles, including 13 for a loss, while recovering four fumbles and causing two.
"It's going to be a huge challenge," said Arizona senior tight end Steve Fleming about facing the Trojans defensive line. "They are good across the board, solid at every position. They know what they're doing out there and don't make many mistakes."
USC gets ample support from junior Frostee Rucker, sophomore Manuel Wright and freshman Lawrence Jackson, all of whom rotate on the defensive line.
Jackson has recorded five sacks on the way to 22 total tackles, while Wright has two sacks and two pass break-ups, and Rucker has 4.5 tackles for a loss and one fumble recovery.
The Trojans front four have propelled USC's defense to the top of the Pac-10 with the team ranking first in scoring defense (11.9 ppg) and total defense (267 ypg),
With the Trojans' high-powered offense and the team's stiff defense, USC has held the No. 1 spot in both major polls and the Bowl Championship Series for the entire year.
"They're a good team, very athletic," said Arizona junior defensive lineman Marcus Smith. "They are good on both sides of the ball. They're the best team for a reason."
The Trojans' special teams have also played a huge role in the team's success.
Bush is considered by many as one of the most exciting players in the nation.
"Any time he touches the ball he's a threat to go the distance," said Stoops.
Bush has returned punts for touchdowns in the last two weeks, one from 65 yards last week against Oregon State, which proved to be the game winner, and a 57-yard return against Washington State two weeks ago.
"You need to put your best people out there and give them a chance to cover," Stoops said. "He's a very talented player, and we have to make sure we don't give him too many good balls to return."