College football: Around the nation
BY Associated Press
Saturday, November 03, 2012
11/03/12 at 3:23 AM
No. 2 Oregon at No. 18 Southern Cal 6 p.m. Saturday TV: KOKI-5/23
Ducks look to soar over Trojans
Southern California linebacker Hayes Pullard connects with Oregon tailback De'Anthony Thomas pretty much every day, either by phone or text.
They went to Crenshaw High School together, and they've been anticipating the Ducks' visit to the Coliseum on Saturday virtually since graduation.
"We usually talk about other things, but this week it went to football right away," Pullard said.
They're not alone. No. 2 Oregon's visit to Los Angeles has loomed as the biggest day on the Pac-12 calendar since late last year, when USC demonstrated the Ducks couldn't completely dominate the West Coast.
Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) has won 11 straight games and the Rose Bowl since that 38-35 loss to USC in Eugene, seamlessly replacing key starters on its spread offense while building a defense that might be the Ducks' best yet.
The 18th-ranked Trojans (6-2, 4-2) haven't exactly lived up to the promise of that gritty road win. Two narrow road losses this fall have knocked the preseason's No. 1 team out of the national title race and left them significant underdogs in their own stadium Saturday.
Just don't try to tell anybody on either sideline that this showdown has lost any significance.
"I don't think anything has changed much," said Robert Woods, USC's All-American receiver. "Oregon is still going to come here and play like it's a championship game, and I know we will. I hope they don't overlook us."
Even a two-loss USC team is an attention-grabber for Oregon, which is roaring down the stretch of another spectacular season. The Ducks haven't even played a close game, trouncing every opponent by at least 17 points while leading the nation in scoring.
"Playoffs started in college football on the first game of the season, and when you lose, you're done," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said.
No. 4 Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh 2:30 p.m. Saturday TV: KJRH-9/2
Notre Dame tries to keep focus
Fourth-ranked Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are looking to avoid distractions on Saturday. The Fighting Irish (8-0) tried all week to distance themselves from talk about possibly playing for their first national championship since 1988. They skipped discussions about how the 2002 team stumbled at this same point.
They've done their best to escape the demand for tickets - and their time - that friends and family have created leading up to recent games at Notre Dame Stadium, where the Irish haven't been as dominant as they have been on the road.
It's a problem that perplexes the Irish. Notre Dame's average margin of victory at home is five points and away from South Bend it's 28 points. Coach Brian Kelly said he believes the Irish have to raise the intensity at home.
"I think teams that come into Notre Dame Stadium play their very, very best. We have to match that intensity," he said.
The biggest differences for the Irish at Notre Dame Stadium and away are turnovers, penalties and their rushing offense and defense. Seven of Notre Dame's eight turnovers have occurred at home and the Irish have committed 27 penalties at home and 15 away. Meanwhile, the Irish are averaging 110 yards a game more away from South Bend while the defense is holding opponents to 41.5 yards a game less away from South Bend.
"I don't know. That's the same thing we talked about this week. We have to come with the same energy at home as we do on the road," Kelly said.
The Panthers (4-4) have a different sort of distraction after leading rusher Ray Graham, leading receiver Devin Street and defensive back Lafayette Pitts were charged Thursday with misdemeanor counts of simple assault and conspiracy involving three other students. The players deny being involved and will play on Saturday.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o sacks OU quarterback Landry Jones last Saturday. This week, the undefeatd Irish take on Pitt. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World