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Avenging loss to Cal the No. 1 priority for USC

LOS ANGELES -- USC has waited a year for this.

The top-ranked Trojans get a chance to avenge their only defeat since October 2002 when they face No. 7 California today before a sellout crowd of 92,000.

"This is a great moment for the Pac-10. This is prime time, the best of times," Southern California coach Pete Carroll said. "We have two top 10 teams playing in the Coliseum with a giant crowd.

"There is a really fun buildup to this game. What happened last year adds to it all, brings more excitement."

Cal safety Ryan Gutierrez, a fifth-year senior, thinks it may be the biggest game of his career.

"I've never seen a West Coast game of this magnitude. You've got two highly ranked teams, two power offenses, the great defenses," he said. "This happens on the East Coast once in a while, but it's pretty special when we get one out here."

The Trojans, back as a national power under Carroll, have lost just once in 25 games.

The Bears upset then-No. 3 USC, 34-31, in triple overtime late last September. The Trojans went on to win the Associated Press national championship, but the loss at Berkeley cost them an undisputed title. LSU won the BCS crown.

Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the rematch gives the Bears a chance to make a statement that they belong among college football's elite.

"People are still doubting us, so it's going to be a great chance for us to show people what Cal football is all about this season," Rodgers said. "Win or lose, I think it's great for the program to get this type of exposure. It's a real good chance to show we're a top-echelon team."

The Trojans (4-0, 1-0) are riding a 13-game winning streak and have won 13 in a row at home. The Bears (3-0, 1-0) have won six straight.

Coach Jeff Tedford, who has turned the Cal program around since taking over before the 2002 season, said he thought USC should have been the undisputed national champion last season, and that the Trojans certainly deserve their No. 1 ranking this year.

"They are very well-coached in all phases of the game. There is not a hole anywhere with the talent they have. Great players, great coaches, and great schemes, they have it all going," Tedford said.

USC had a bye last weekend -- its second of the season. The Bears, meanwhile, scored a surprisingly easy 49-7 victory at Oregon State.

In a game featuring several outstanding matchups, the best might be between the quarterbacks.

USC's Matt Leinart, who threw three interceptions in the loss last year, went on to finish sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and is having another outstanding season.

Rodgers, who started against USC last season but was replaced by Reggie Robertson after throwing a costly interception, ranks among the nation's passing leaders in several categories, including second in passing efficiency at 190.3.

Leinart has completed 84 of 124 passes (67.7 percent) for 1,023 yards this year, with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. He has an efficiency rating of 155.1.

Rodgers, also a junior, is 43 for 58 (74.1 percent) for 614 yards, with six touchdowns and two interceptions.

"Their quarterback knows what he's doing," USC safety Jason Leach said. "Their receivers are awesome."

Each team also features a breakaway back -- the Bears' J.J. Arrington and the Trojans' Reggie Bush.

Arrington has averaged 8.6 yards a carry and 155.3 yards a game this season. Bush has averaged 6.5 yards a carry and 82.5 yards a game while sharing the tailback duty with LenDale White.

Even the coaches present an interesting matchup: Carroll is considered an excellent defensive coach, and Tedford seems to have similar talents on the offensive side.

"It's two of the top minds in the country, coach Tedford on offense and coach Carroll on defense," Rodgers said. "I'm sure [Tedford's] really looking forward to the chance to attack coach Carroll's defense, and I'm sure coach Carroll is going to try to stop our offense."

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