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    USC Football Opens 2008 Season At Virginia
    Pete Carroll
    Pete Carroll

    Aug. 23, 2008

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    Highly-ranked USC travels to the other side of the country to open its promising 2008 season against ACC opponent Virginia. It's the Trojans' first meeting against the Cavaliers and their first game in the state of Virginia. It's also the first time a Pac-10 team has visited Charlottesville. USC--which went 11-2 and won the Rose Bowl last fall--has been on quite a run recently, with 6 consecutive AP Top 4 finishes, BCS bowl trips, Pac-10 titles and 11-win seasons. The Trojans have won their past 10 openers, plus their last 8 non-conference (non-neutral site) road games. Eighth-year USC head coach Pete Carroll, college football's winningest active coach (84.4%), will field a team with a veteran defense and a young (just 4 returning starters) but talented offense. The defense features Butkus Award candidates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing at linebacker and Thorpe Award candidates Taylor Mays and Kevin Ellison at safety, plus other returning starters in DT Fili Moala, DE Kyle Moore and CB Cary Harris. Energetic QB Mark Sanchez, a 3-game starter in 2007, appears recovered from a knee injury suffered in fall camp and is ready to lead the Trojan offense. There is a stable of talented running backs, led by TBs Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford. FB Stanley Havili is equally adept at blocking, running and catching. The receiving corps is deep, with WRs Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton the returning starters (they combined for 98 receptions and 7 TDs last fall). OG-C Jeff Byers, an Academic All-American candidate, is the only returnee on the offensive front, but the other o-line positions are manned by players who have started at times last year. USC's specialists--strong-legged PK David Buehler and P Greg Woidneck--are back from 2007 and appear improved. Like Carroll, Virginia head coach Al Groh once was head coach of the New York Jets. Now in his eighth year at UVa, Groh's 2008 squad has only 10 returning starters from last fall's 9-4 Gator Bowl team. The Cavaliers must decide on a quarterback between Peter Lalich (8 career relief appearances), former Angelino Scott Deke (1 career game) and untested Marc Verica. TBs Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson present a formidable ground attack, with impressive OT Eugene Monroe blocking for them. Virginia's 3-4 defense is led by the likes of LBs Clint Sintim and Jon Cooper. All 61,500 seats in Scott Stadium are sold, but the game can be viewed live nationally on ABC-TV/ESPN2.