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CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Pete Carroll returns to the sidelines at Reser Stadium tonight and no matter how confident everyone else seems to be that USC will steamroll Oregon State in its conference opener, he knows better.
He remembers the last time USC was in Corvallis two years ago, when Trojans were riding a 38-game regular-season winning streak and had won their last 27 Pac-10 games. Not only did USC lose, 33-31, but late in the third quarter Carroll found himself in the midst of his first blowout, trailing 33-10. Only once at USC had Carroll lost by more than a touchdown (a 27-16 defeat in South Bend during his first season).
Two years earlier, USC's national championship dreams nearly disappeared in the fog that engulfed Reser Stadium. Holding on to a precarious 14-13 lead in the fourth quarter, the Trojans needed a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by Reggie Bush to spark them a 28-20 win.
Even before Carroll joined the team in 2001, Corvallis was becoming a difficult place to play. Paul Hackett's downward spiral as USC's coach began when the then-eighth-ranked Trojans lost to Oregon State, 31-21, in Corvallis in 2000. That broke a 26-game losing streak for the Beavers against USC.
While USC has improved in Pac-10 road openers (they had lost five straight until 2004), none of their wins in recent years have come without some kind of drama. Here's a look at how USC has fared in Pac-10 road openers since 1999:
1999 – Oregon 33, USC 30 (3OT)
2000 – Oregon State 31, USC 21
2001 – Oregon 24, USC 22
2002 – Washington State 30, USC 27 (OT)
2003 – Cal 34, USC 31 (3OT)
2004 – USC 31, Stanford 28 (Stanford led 28-17 at halftime)
2005 – USC 45, Oregon 13 (Oregon led 13-0 in the second quarter)
2006 – USC 20, Arizona 3 (USC only led 10-3 in the fourth quarter)
2007 – USC 27, Washington 24
Considering the current state of the Trojans (this may be Carroll's best and deepest squad yet) and the rest of the Pac-10 (which has a combined record of 15-17 outside of USC), the Trojans should handle the Beavers easily tonight (they're favored to win by 25 points). If they don't, however, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that follows history.