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Best Seat: Carroll talks up UVa. ahead of Saturday opener

Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham

Southern Cal is a 19 and a half point favorite heading into its season opener on Saturday at Virginia. You wouldn’t believe that hearing SC coach Pete Carroll talk about the game, of course.

“I think it’s a great matchup opportunity for us – to take our team across the country and take a trip to a really cool place to play. The place will be rocking. They have an excellent program, great coaching. Al has been a terrific coach for years and years, and he runs a really good program. We know we’re going to get a great game from those guys, and hopefully we’ll be up for it, and we’ll do well with it,” Carroll said in a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

The third-ranked Trojans would appear to be prohibitive favorites in the matchup with UVa., which was picked to finish fifth in the six-team ACC Coastal Division last month. But the Cavs are coming off their most successful season in years in 2007, finishing second in the Coastal and going 9-4 overall with a trip to the Gator Bowl as their reward.

Virginia is probably in rebuilding mode in 2008, though, with the losses of star defensive ends Chris Long and Jeffrey Fitzgerald and Cardiac Kid quarterback Jameel Sewell in the offseason.

SC, for its part, is once again in reloading mode, as is evidenced by its QB situation that has anointed starter Mark Sanchez in all likelihood ready to go on Saturday ahead of highly-regarded backups Mitch Mustain and Aaron Korp. Sanchez had been questionable after injuring his left kneecap in practice on Aug. 8, but Carroll said today that Sanchez practiced full-go on Monday.

“We had a pad practice yesterday, and he was ready. He looked good. I think he’s got to clear through the doctors tonight to really get the final OK. But he looks very good. He’s practiced for a few days now, and we’re expecting him to play,” Carroll said.

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