Pete Carroll, Norm Chow face off again

It’s quieter this year, with fewer questions about their infamous split, but USC Coach Pete Carroll is looking forward to matching wits again with Norm Chow when the Trojans play UCLA on Saturday at the Coliseum.

Chow, the Bruins’ second-year offensive coordinator, held the same post for USC from 2001 to 2004 and helped Carroll win two national championships.

A common lament among USC fans: The Trojans haven’t won a national title since Chow left.

USC is on its third offensive coordinator since Chow departed for the NFL before the 2005 season, Jeremy Bates having followed Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian as the Trojans’ play-caller.

Last season, the first time Carroll and Chow went head to head, USC limited the Bruins to 157 yards in a 28-7 victory at the Rose Bowl.

That, however, was achieved with a veteran defense that ranked among the nation’s best.

On Saturday, USC faces the surging Bruins with a defense that gave up a combined 102 points and 1,082 yards in losses against Oregon and Stanford.

“I don’t think of it as Norm, I think of it as their offense,” Carroll said Wednesday.

“But he’s certainly behind it and he’s the mastermind of it all, so we go at it again.”

UCLA’s offense is hardly a juggernaut.

The Bruins rank eighth in the Pacific 10 Conference and average 22.6 points and 340.9 yards a game.

USC’s defense is sixth in the conference, giving up 21.7 points and 347.1 yards a game.

Carroll said he would attempt to anticipate Chow’s tendencies, though not necessarily those from the past.

“You always think and try to use all of the information, so I don’t discount any of it, but we’re basically focused on what’s going on now,” Carroll said. “How they use people and that kind of stuff, and what we think they would do against us.”

Meantime, Bates is devising a plan for a Trojans offense that has failed to score more than 21 points in any of its last three games.

Freshman quarterback Matt Barkley faces a Bruins defense that has given up a conference-low 20.6 points a game and intercepted 17 passes.

“We’re going to be aggressive, but were going to be smart about it,” Bates said. “They’re ball hawks back there.”

Bates said he was encouraged by the sight -- and the sound -- of the offense this week during practices that followed last weekend’s open date.

“We’ve heard some collisions this whole week,” he said. “We’re striking and that’s an exciting sign.”

Williams will play

Receiver Damian Williams, who was sidelined against Stanford because of an ankle sprain, remains on track to play against the Bruins.

Williams was cleared by doctors on Tuesday night and passed another test by completing nearly all of practice.

“It’s thrilling that he’s gotten back like this,” Carroll said. “No way he should have been able to.”

Williams, however, will not be the starting punt returner against UCLA.

Joe McKnight will handle those duties for the second game in a row, Carroll said.

Quick hits

Alex Parsons resumed working with the first unit at right guard. Nick Howell had been working at the spot early in the week. . . . Representatives of the Holiday, Emerald and Poinsettia bowls are expected to be in attendance Saturday.