Say hello to the Gutty Little … Trojans? Oregon is favored by three points to defeat USC in Eugene on Saturday, and USC as the underdog isn’t just unusual, it’s downright exotic. USC has been favored to win each of its last 57 games. And usually favored to stomp. Perhaps no team in college football history consistently generated such lopsided betting lines as Pete Carroll’s teams have, going back to 2003. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Two national championships during that span, about 30 weeks ranked No. 1 and 33 victories by 20 or more points will do that for you. This season, the Trojans have been favored to win by 46 (Idaho), 91/2 (Nebraska), 25 (Washington State), 201/2 (Washington), 41 (Stanford), 21 (Arizona) and 171/2 (Notre Dame). The popular perception for almost five years has been clear: USC is significantly better than most everyone. And that can get old, not to mention burdensome, as you take everybody’s best shot while trying to ignore that you’re supposed to win just by showing up. It also generates backlash when you don’t win by enough. Witness USC’s retrograde movement in the polls two weeks ago after defeating Arizona “only” 20-13. All that favoritism is flattering, but it can leave you in awkward situations. When you’re the Big Bad Wolves of college football, it’s hard to go all Little Red Riding Hood in your game preparation. “Gee, Oregon, what big offense you have!” If we know anything about football coaches, it’s that they love-love-love it when “people” expect them to lose a game. It puts another hammer into the motivational toolbox. Or do players shouting “no one thought we could win!” and “we shocked the world!” sound like novelties to you? Carroll feigned ignorance Tuesday regarding his team’s underdog status vs. the mighty Ducks. “That means absolutely nothing to me,” he said. “I never noticed it. If you didn’t bring it up, I wouldn’t even know.” That is the politically correct answer for a college football coach, given the NCAA’s legitimate horror at the evils of gambling. But we rather doubt someone as astute as Carroll hadn’t heard that his Supermen have turned into Underdogs. The last time USC was a clear-cut ‘dog? The 2003 opener at Auburn, when the Tigers were were 3-4-point favorites (USC won, 23-0). The only quasi-asterisk in USC’s 57 games since is last January’s Rose Bowl, in which Michigan opened as a slight favorite … only to see many gaming establishments shift the line to “pick-em” status by game time or even install USC as a slight favorite – by one point, day of game, according to online tout SBG Global. And the last time USC was an underdog in a Pac-10 game? Have to go all the way back to the last game of the 2001 regular season, Carroll’s first, when UCLA was a three-point favorite. That was 46 Pac-10 games ago, and USC won, 27-0. The gaming aspects of this don’t matter inside the program, and shouldn’t. Betting on football games is illegal outside casinos. But the perceptions DO matter, and the Oregon line says this: The wise guys who bet football believe USC will lose Saturday. And that has to be liberating, maybe even fun, for Carroll & Co., perennial overdogs. Terrell Thomas, USC’s fifth-year senior cornerback, said the Trojans aren’t miffed that Oregon is favored. “We like it,” he said. “The rest of the season is all about respect for us. As a team, how do you want to be perceived? We want that respect that ‘SC still is that great team.” You don’t have to be Dale Carnegie to see the motivational possibilities. “Hey, kids, time to prove we still matter.” After extolling Oregon’s virtues at length Tuesday, Carroll said, “We’re pumped up.” Nothing like underdog status to get the competitive juices flowing. email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!