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First look: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. USC

Who knew South Dakota had a team?

The fans in Minnesota do now after their Golden Gophers lost 41-38 to the South Dakota Coyotes on Saturday in Minneapolis. Could the Gophers, who survived a scare from Middle Tennessee in Week 1, pull a 360-degree reversal from one week to the next, going from upset victim to provider?

Vegas isn't buying it, though bookmakers apparently were unconvinced by USC's three-point win over Virginia. The Trojans are two-touchdown favorites to a team that just lost to a lower-division school.

Coach Lane Kiffin might have a tough time keeping a straight face while convincing his team it has a challenge on its hands this week. He said he'll point to Kansas, which lost to North Dakota State one week and then shocked No. 15 Georgia Tech the next. He has a point. Anything can happen, and sometimes does, in college football.

"They'll have extra motivation as a way to erase that memory," Kiffin said.

Minnesota coach Tim Brewster, who heard plenty of boos and jeers from the student section at TCF Bank Stadium said he's glad USC is making its first trip to Minnesota in 30 years. It's not hard to get up for playing the Trojans. They've become accustomed to teams giving them their best shot in the Pac-10.

"I love the fact that USC's coming in this week. Coming off a tough loss, our kids are going to be excited to play," Brewster told Minnesota reporters. "We're not going to have to challenge our guys to get excited."

If ever USC's offense had an opportunity, it might be this week. Minnesota has 11 new defensive starters and gave up 444 total yards to South Dakota, with Coyotes quarterback Dante Warren running wild. The offense, which finished dead last in the Big Ten in scoring last year, has shown some signs of perking up. Running back Duane Bennett ran for more than 100 yards in both games and Adam Weber has completed 69.4 percent of his passes without an interception.

Brewster's job security might be on the line this season even though his team reached the Insight Bowl a year ago and lost by one point to Iowa State. The stakes have been raised now that Minnesota has a brand new on-campus stadium and no longer shares the Metrodome with the Vikings and Twins.

In short, the Gophers could use an upset and the Trojans haven't exactly looked invincible. Stranger things have happened, like that South Dakota game.