SAN FRANCISCO -- Southern California coach Pete Carroll is preparing for Saturday's Emerald Bowl with the thought that leading rusher Joe McKnight won't be able to play.
McKnight is in Los Angeles dealing with paperwork following an investigation into whether he improperly used an SUV registered to a local businessman.
"There have been some raised issues that the compliance office is taking very seriously," Carroll said Tuesday at a news conference for the bowl game against Boston College.
"They have to thoroughly go through the information to make sure that we know what we're doing. We felt like it was best to keep Joe there until we know the facts. They're hoping to find out in the next day what the situation is and hopefully we'll get it resolved. Whether they do or not I don't know. We'll have to wait it out," he said.
Carroll said the holiday week was making it difficult to resolve any issues with McKnight because some of the investigators and the people the school needs to talk to are traveling.
McKnight led USC in rushing this season with 1,014 yards. He also scored eight touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. If McKnight can't go, Allen Bradford will likely get the starting nod. Bradford had 98 carries for 596 yards and eight scores this season.
C.J. Gable, who had only 21 carries for 93 yards this season, will also get more of a chance.
"Our running backs that are here in this program are dying for this opportunity," Carroll said. "This is what they wait for. They want to be in the spotlight. They want to do something special with their opportunity. Don't think they aren't fired up about it. Those guys are ready to crank and fill the void. That's always been the way we've dealt with it."
While USC is preparing to be without McKnight, the Eagles are practicing this week assuming McKnight will be on the field Saturday night.
"I'd like to play against him," linebacker Mike McLaughlin said. "He's a heck of a running back, one of the best in the country. Unfortunately he's in a tough situation right now. As far as we're concerned, we're game planning like he's playing in the game. If we didn't that would be foolish. He can win a football game for them. We have to prepare for him."
USC is also without three other key players, who were declared academically ineligible on Monday. Tight end Anthony McCoy and tackle Tyron Smith, both starters, and defensive end Averell Spicer, a key reserve, will not play against Boston College.
The Trojans (8-4) are coming off their worst season since 2001. USC won seven consecutive Pac-10 championships and played in seven consecutive BCS games before this season.