Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 19 News List

USC Trojans lead AP rankings for the 22nd straight time

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LOS ANGELES

Southern California is No. 1 in the AP poll for the 22nd straight time, a national record that breaks Miami's previous mark, set in 2001-2002.

But are USC's lopsided victories boring for even the Trojans?

Only during a 70-17 victory over Arkansas could one player be text messaging friends while two others spoke to fans in the stands during the fourth quarter at the Coliseum.

A 24-game winning streak and possible third national title are impressive feats, but when you don't even need to pay attention for four quarters, that's impressive.

One quality not lacking with the Trojans is humility. Although USC is 2-0 and averaging 66.5 points per game -- which is only eight points less than the Trojans' basketball team last season -- the players realize their first two opponents, Hawaii and Arkansas, were not the strongest.

"These two teams weren't superhero opponents," wide receiver Steve Smith said.

"We will play teams a lot better than Arkansas," offensive lineman Winston Justice added. "I thought this game was funny."

It wasn't so much a game as a video game. With 736 yards of offense, USC toyed with the Razorbacks.

"It does seem like a video game," tailback Reggie Bush said. "It was fun and easy at the same time."

Even the players are amazed at the ease with which the Trojans are scoring points. USC is embarrassing teams that seem incapable of covering Bush or the receivers. Of course, two awful opponents might create a deceptive impression.

"I don't think it's been easy," offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said. "Guys are excited, it's hard to contain their excitement. They are hungry. They don't want to be on the sidelines. Nobody has sacred jobs."

Freshman receiver Patrick Turner said he never imagined college football would seem so one-sided, no matter the opponent.

"I never thought it was going to be this easy. It's crazy how we outscheme them," Turner said. "I've never seen this kind of football. This is what made me choose USC."

Much of it revolves around Bush. Defenses must decide whether to treat him as a receiver or tailback, and he moves around enough to make it a tough choice.

"He was out there a number of times out at wide receiver," Kiffin said. "Reggie is unique to any player in the country."

On Bush's first touchdown reception, he lined up at tailback, but tight end Dominique Byrd was also in the backfield, creating a dilemma for the defense.

"How are you going to treat him?" Kiffin said.

Before everyone gets too excited, the defense still has its holes, which have gotten a little bigger with injuries.

"We didn't play real good against their receiver [Marcus Monk]," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

"And our younger guys missed some tackles."

At some point that will be an issue when USC stops playing Hawaii and Arkansas, who are 0-4 against Division I-A teams.

INJURY UPDATE

Cornerback Terrell Thomas tore the medial collateral ligament and probably tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, which means he's out for the season. He will undergo an MRI on Tuesday for official confirmation, but no one expects him back this year.

"At first it was a shock," Thomas said about the injury. "I'm not thinking anything, I'm just going to wait for the results."

With Thomas likely finished, John Walker becomes a starter and freshman Kevin Thomas is the third cornerback with fellow freshman Cary Harris the fourth corner. Thomas and Harris played for the first time against Arkansas and got an unenthusiastic review from Carroll.

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