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USC QB Matt Barkley looking for his first win over Stanford

Southern Californicoach Lane Kiffright talks with quarterback Matt Barkley during fourth quarter an NCAA college football game against Syracuse Saturday

Southern California coach Lane Kiffin, right, talks with quarterback Matt Barkley during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Syracuse on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. USC defeated Syracuse 42-29. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

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Charleston South. at Illinois

Time: 11 a.m., BTN

The records: Charleston Southern 0-2, Illinois 1-1

The story line: After last week’s Desert Storm, Illini regroup vs. Big South opponent. Illini are looking for better QB play and tighter defense.

The line: No line

Herb Gould’s pick: Illinois, 34-10

Northern Illinois at Army

Time: 11 a.m., CBSSN, 670-AM

Records: Army 0-1, NIU 1-1

The story line: Going up against Army means playing against the triple option offense and double-eagle flex defense. The Black Knights will control the clock, so the Huskies will need to make the most of their opportunities.

The line: NIU by 3

Steve Nitz’s pick: NIU 24-14


Time: 2:30 p.m. BTN, 1000-AM

Records: Boston College 1-1, NU 2-0

The story line: Northwestern remains somewhat of a mystery, especially on defense, but has a golden opportunity to start the season 5-0 if they can avoid an upset against the Eagles.

The line: Wildcats by 31/2.

Neil Hayes’ pick: NU 27-24

Notre Dame at Michigan State

Time: 7 p.m., Ch. 7, 890-AM

Records: ND 2-0, MSU 2-0

The story line: Cierre Wood returns to the Notre Dame backfield, and redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson hopes to finish what he

starts in his first true road game.

The line: Michigan State by 6

Mark Lazerus’ pick: MSU 24-20

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Updated: October 15, 2012 10:03AM

Say this for No. 2 USC. There’s never a dull moment. After sitting out the last bowl season as part of their NCAA penance for transgressions involving Reggie Bush, the Trojans began this season atop the Associated Press preseason poll. Despite beating Hawaii 49-10 in their opener, they dropped to No. 2 as Alabama throttled Michigan.

After beating Syracuse 42-29 Saturday in uninspired fashion, their lead on No. 3 LSU is a mere 10 votes. USC also has been losing ground in the coaches’ poll, where it is No. 3.

Trojans coach Lane Kiffin—who’s still only 37 even though he’s been head coach at Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders as well as USC’s offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll — professes not to care about rankings.

‘‘Whenever I’m tempted to think like that,’’ he told the Los Angeles Times, ‘‘I think back to two years ago when we were on probation and couldn’t go anywhere. I’m like, if we’re ranked 1, 2, 3, whatever, that’s all a pretty good place to be.’’

That tune will change if USC stays in the national championship hunt, where No. 3 is on the outside looking in.

But first, there are many scores to settle, beginning with the Trojans’ trip to No. 21 Stanford, which has won three straight vs. USC and is aiming for a record fourth straight win.

For the first time in that streak, the Heisman Trophy candidate is on the other sideline. Stanford great Andrew Luck has moved on to the Indianapolis Colts, and USC quarterback Matt Barkley is the early frontrunner for college football’s signature award.

The bar is set so high for Barkley that after he threw six touchdowns vs. Syracuse, some critics were pondering his mere 187 passing yards. That’s a bar the Trojans readily accept.

‘‘We didn’t play our best game; we know that,’’ safety T.J. McDonald said. ‘‘We’ll take the win, but we’ve got to get better at a lot of things.’’

With Barkley throwing to junior Robert Woods and sophomore Marqise Lee, who have combined for eight TDs and 395 receiving yards in two games, and Penn State transfer Silas Redd just getting warmed up at running back, USC has a lot of weapons.

Facing the Cardinal, it also has a rivalry game, even though USC doesn’t want to admit that.

‘‘It’s just another game,’’ Barkley said even though Stanford is the only Pac-12 team he hasn’t beaten. ‘‘It’s the next game. It’s Week 3. We’re going up north for an away game. Nothing special about it.’’

Yeah, right. That may be the approach to take, but even if they tune out the national championship and the Heisman, Stanford’s three-game winning streak has been filled with intensity.

After Jim Harbaugh went for a two-point conversion while leading 48-21 in a 55-21 win in 2009, Carroll asked Harbaugh, ‘‘What’s your deal?’’

In 2010, Luck engineered a 62-yard drive that set up the Cardinal for a 37-35 victory on a final-play field goal. And last year, Stanford won 56-48 in triple overtime.

Like Barkley, second-year Stanford coach David Shaw is playing down the rivalry angle. ‘‘I always hate looking at things that way because it takes the focus off of what’s important,’’ Shaw told the San Jose Mercury-News. ‘‘Winning streaks or make-sure-Matt-Barkley-doesn’t-beat-us, that stuff has no bearing on how the game is played.’’

But it adds a lot of spice. Especially when one program is in the national championship picture.

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