USC back in Rose Bowl picture after destroying Arizona St.

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Despite two losses, Southern California still believes it is one of the nation's best teams.

The Trojans looked like it on Thursday night.

John David Booty threw for 375 yards and matched a career high with four touchdown passes as the 11th-ranked Trojans blitzed Arizona State (No. 6 BCS, No. 7 AP) 44-24, reviving their bid for an unprecedented sixth straight Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

"This was a really, really sweet win," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's a great statement for our guys. They know now what we're capable of doing."

The Rose Bowl seemed an unlikely destination after then-No. 2 USC, a 41-point favorite, lost 24-23 to Stanford on Oct. 6 in one of college football's biggest stunners. But now, the talented Trojans are rolling again.

"People kind of counted us out, especially with the early loss to Stanford," said Booty, who also ran for a 1-yard score. "We know what we're all about."

Southern California (9-2, 6-2 Pac-10) will win the Pac-10 if it beats UCLA on Dec. 1 and Oregon loses to UCLA or Oregon State.

The Trojans needed no help in dismantling the Sun Devils (9-2, 6-2).

USC's defense overwhelmed Arizona State, sacking Rudy Carpenter six times and briefly knocking him out of the game with a cut lip. Defensive end Lawrence Jackson had four sacks, most in a game by a Trojans player since 1989.

"They came to hit tonight," Carpenter said. "I think tonight, we were overmatched."

Southern California broke open a 17-all game with 10 points in the final 5 minutes of the first half, then pulled away from the Sun Devils with 17 more points in the third quarter.

Booty hit Joe McKnight for a 7-yard touchdown midway through the quarter, then connected with Fred Davis for a 34-yard score on fourth-and-2 to give USC a 44-17 lead entering the fourth.

Booty had missed three games with a broken finger and played inconsistently at times. But he was sharp and confident from the start, completing his first seven passes.

"The individual showing from John David was just perfectly timed," Carroll said. "He's back now. He's ready to go. He comes up with a huge night."

ASU has staged some stirring rallies this season but the Sun Devils had no chance against USC's defense, which allows 16 points per game -- sixth in the nation. The Trojans limited ASU to 16 yards on 35 rushes.

It was USC's eighth straight win over Arizona State.

"We didn't play good," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "It's sad.

"We just did not play like I thought we would in a game like this," Erickson said. "No excuses. We just didn't do what we needed to do."

Arizona State trailed 17-7 midway through the first quarter. It was the sixth time the Sun Devils have faced a double-digit deficit in the opening quarter, and they rallied to win four times.

The Trojans opened the game with a seven-play, 51-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a 4-yard pass from Booty to Vidal Hazelton. Booty was 6-for-6 for 45 yards on the opening drive.

ASU answered with a 98-yard kickoff return by Rudy Burgess to tie it 7-all. It was only the second kickoff return for a touchdown by a Sun Devils player at home in the past 21 years.

The Trojans scored the next 10 points, but then the Sun Devils woke up.

ASU cut it to 17-14 on a 4-yard pass from Carpenter to Michael Jones, and Thomas Weber's 25-yard field goal tied it at 17 early in the second quarter.

But USC reeled off the next 27 points, and the Sun Devils didn't score again until they blocked a punt at USC's 20-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.

Now the Trojans will try to carry the momentum of this dominating victory into their game against crosstown rival UCLA on Dec. 1 in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

If things break right, USC might be celebrating a Rose Bowl berth that day.

"I've been ringing the bell for that in our locker room and our meeting rooms for a while," Carroll said. "It ain't over yet."


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