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This Feels More Like Final Exam

Times Staff Writer

USC football players took midterm exams last week.

Today, after three days off because of an open date, the top-ranked Trojans begin preparations for their biggest test on the field -- Saturday’s Pacific 10 Conference game against seventh-ranked California at the sold-out Coliseum.

Cal’s 49-7 victory at Oregon State, coupled with losses by West Virginia and Ohio State, vaulted the Golden Bears three spots in the Associated Press media and ESPN/USA Today coaches’ polls.

USC, 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Pac-10, has won 13 consecutive games since losing to Cal in triple overtime last season at Berkeley.

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“I know they’re going to be looking for a little revenge on us,” Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said after Saturday’s game.

USC has a 16-game winning streak at the Coliseum, where the Trojans will face undefeated teams in consecutive weeks.

Cal (3-0, 1-0) has won six games in row, including victories this season over Air Force, New Mexico State and Oregon State. On Oct. 16, USC plays host to Arizona State (5-0, 2-0), which is in first place in the Pac-10 and has an open date following its victory over Oregon on Saturday.

Though USC begins intense study of Cal this week, many Trojan players and coaches said after last Thursday’s practice that their weekend itineraries would include watching some or all of the Cal-Oregon State game.

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“The big thing we took away from today’s game was our defense,” Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “It’s really going to be important that our defense give this same type of effort against probably a better offense.”

Rodgers directs one of the nation’s most balanced offenses.

The junior has completed 74.1% of his passes and trails only Purdue’s Kyle Orton nationally in passing efficiency with a 190.3 rating.

Running back J.J. Arrington is fifth in the nation in rushing, averaging 155.3 yards a game for an offense that ranks first in scoring at 48.7 points and second in total offense at 539 yards a game.

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Cal is ranked seventh in scoring defense (11.7 points a game) and 11th in total defense (261.7 yards a game).

USC quarterback Matt Leinart is 10th nationally in passing efficiency (159.2). The Trojans are 13th in total offense (461.8 yards a game) and 15th in scoring (36.5 points a game). USC is 10th in scoring defense (12.8 points a game), 12th in rushing defense (86.5 yards a game), 46th in pass defense (190.8) and 20th in total defense (277.3).

Times staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.


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