8:00 PM ET, September 16, 2006
Los Angeles Coliseum, LOS ANGELES, CA
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Nebraska is shooting for a return to elite status. Southern California hopes to stay there. One faces a setback Saturday night.
The 19th-ranked Cornhuskers face No. 4 USC at the Coliseum (ABC, 8 p.m. ET), where the Trojans have won a school-record 27 straight games. It will be just the third game between two of college football's most decorated programs and the first since 1970.
"This is a big, exciting time for us coming home," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said. "There is a great buildup and it's a great event for us, particularly since we have such an extraordinary opponent. I know this is a great opportunity for them and I know they will be revved up and ready to go."
A capacity crowd of over 90,000 is expected for USC's home opener, and it figures to include a significant percentage of red-clad Nebraska fans.
Spokesman Tim Tessalone said 300 people with Nebraska zip codes purchased USC season tickets -- obviously with one game in mind. The Huskers' athletic department received a 4,000-ticket allotment, and when the USC ticket office began selling tickets for this game, nearly 7,700 sold in three days with 3,400 of those ordered by people with Nebraska zip codes.
And, of course, there are other ways to find tickets at the last minute.
"I think it's great that the Nebraska people support the program the way they do," third-year coach Bill Callahan said. "For the people who don't know anything about Nebraska, the fans, they live and die with this program. And I mean it.
"They follow it, they travel, they listen to it. They've got a long history of that, and we're real excited that there will be a good contingent of them out there."
The Huskers (2-0) have outscored the opposition 105-17, but Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State aren't in USC's class. The Trojans (1-0) opened with a 50-14 victory at Arkansas two weeks ago.
When it comes to history, few programs can match USC and Nebraska. Nebraska ranks fourth among Division I-A schools with 796 victories and USC is 10th with 733. The Trojans have appeared in 44 bowl games, winning 28, and the Huskers have played in 43, winning 22.
USC beat the Huskers 31-21 at Nebraska in 1969, and the teams played to a 21-21 tie in Los Angeles the following year.
The Trojans have returned to the top since Carroll was hired as coach in 2001. They're 49-4 during the past four years -- the best such four-year streak in Division I-A since the Huskers went 49-2 from 1994-97.
Nebraska hasn't been the same since Tom Osborne retired in 1997 with a 255-49-3 record. Frank Solich had some success in six years at the helm with a 58-19 mark, but that wasn't deemed to be enough. The Huskers are 15-10 under Callahan, but won their final three games last season and first two this year.
"We're still a ways away, but we're making great strides, and Saturday will be a test of where we're at," Callahan said.
With the likes of Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White now rookies in the NFL, the Trojans have John David Booty at quarterback and a stable of six tailbacks who might play including four freshmen.
Making his first career start after three years in the program, Booty completed 24 of 35 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns at Arkansas.
"He was the epitome of poise in that game," Carroll said. "He's just getting going here. He is just a very calm, composed kid and I'd expect that would happen again."
USC's freshmen tailbacks combined to gain 122 yards on 24 carries.
Nebraska left the option behind when it hired Callahan. The West Coast offense is now the Cornhuskers' mode of attack. Zac Taylor has completed 41 of 56 passes for 489 yards and seven touchdowns, and Marlon Lucky, Glenn Cody and Kenny Wilson have combined to rush for 443 yards on 79 carries.
It's hard not to think about the past when Nebraska and USC are involved. At least for some.
"Ten years from now, I might say, `We played Nebraska.' (But) it doesn't give us any extra motivation," USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson said. "If they had a football field on Mars, we'd play there. We have things we want to get done. It doesn't matter who it is."
Said Nebraska fullback Dane Todd: "As soon as the opening whistle blows, all the hype and hoopla fades away and then it's just football all over again. Both teams have to come out and run, pass, block, tackle. That's football."
Top 25 Overview
The Huskers haven't beaten a top 10 team on the road since 1997 (Washington), and they are just 1-10 against top 25 teams in the last eight seasons.
The Trojans will use their strength at running back to wear Nebraska down and take pressure of QB John David Booty.
|Avg Points Allowed||15.0||12.0|