How much was Holmes missed?

LOS ANGELES -- USC receiver Robert Woods was asked after the Trojans practiced Tuesday if he was surprised they scored only 14 points in their Saturday loss to the Stanford Cardinal.

His answer was simple, direct and telling.

"We missed Khaled Holmes, the leader of our front," Woods said. "But we still have guys who can fill in, and we just gotta do better and play Trojan football."

Excusing the cliché in the final phrase of his comment, Woods' words have plenty of validity. Holmes' absence played in a role in USC's loss, but was it an even bigger role than initially realized? Would the outcome have been different if Holmes had started the game? It's impossible to know.

Coach Lane Kiffin has said this week Holmes will start against Cal on Saturday if he's healthy. Second in line would be senior Abe Markowitz, followed by freshman Cyrus Hobbi, who started against Stanford.

Kiffin said again Tuesday that Hobbi was put in an almost impossible situation against the Cardinal.

"Like I said right after the game, I don't care who it is, that's a hard job," Kiffin said. "Your first time really playing college football, you've got to go on the road against those guys -- we're not running the ball, so we're having to throw the ball a lot -- they did a really good job no matter who it was. In that game, people would argue that (the center was) the most important person you could miss in that game."

Offensive line coach James Cregg said he thought Hobbi did a great job considering the circumstances.

"I give him a lot of credit for playing his butt off," Cregg said. "It's the heat of the moment, and it's hard to practice that."

Markowitz said Tuesday he's healthy this week and will be ready to go against Cal if called upon -- not that he wasn't ready to go last week, when he almost was put in the game despite an injury suffered the previous week against Syracuse.

"I've been here just as long as Khaled and been in every meeting with him," Markowitz said. "I'm prepared. I'm ready to take snaps at guard or center."