- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If there was still any doubt the days of Southern California dominating the Pac-10 are over _ at least for the near future _ there’s proof positive this week.

USC is a 9 1/2-point underdog at Stanford on Saturday.

It’s just the third time since 2004 that USC has been an underdog, according to the odds maker RJ Bell of Pregame.com. The last time was when USC played at Oregon in 2007. The Trojans were three-point underdogs to the Ducks that day and lost 24-17 in quarterback Mark Sanchez’s third career start. He was replacing an injured John David Booty.

The last time the Trojans were a double-digit underdog was 1998 _ pre-Pete Carroll _ when they were getting 14 points at Florida State. Considering the Cardinal crushed USC 55-21 at the Coliseum last season, maybe Stanford should be favored by more this week.

Both the Trojans and Cardinal are coming off Pac-10 losses. USC lost to Washington on a last-second field goal for the second straight season and Stanford couldn’t contain Oregon, losing 52-31 after holding an early 18-point lead.

Behind Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal ripped up USC’s defense last season. Gerhart is gone, but quarterback Andrew Luck and the Stanford offense have been just as potent and powerful in 2010. Meanwhile, the USC defense has gotten even worse, allowing 418 yards per game.

What’s your deal, Trojans?

That’s not just the question this year, it was last year’s, too. After Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh went for a 2-point conversion with the outcome decided last year, Carroll asked his counterpart, “What’s your deal?” during a chilly postgame meeting at midfield. Harbaugh responded, “What’s YOUR deal?”

Clearly, no Christmas cards were swapped between the Carroll and Harbaugh families.

Carroll is gone for the NFL but new USC coach Lane Kiffin practically owes his career to the man he replaced and once worked under. Both coaches, of course, brushed off any lingering, “What’s your deal?” tension.

“That horse has been beaten pretty well,” Harbaugh said. “I think it couldn’t be any more irrelevant to what’s going on this weekend and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Kiffin put it this way: “I think it’s irrelevant unless they have the Seahawks on the schedule.”

Irrelevant? Maybe. But Stanford never misses an opportunity to be irreverent. The athletic department has been offering a “What’s your deal?” ticket plan this season that includes the USC game.

The picks:


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