USC has won 46 of its last 48 home games.It’s a well-known stat — one that dates back all the way to September 2001.Unwelcome guests · Mark Bradford (4) and Anthony Kimble celebrate Stanford’s shocking 24-23 win over USC in the Coliseum in 2007. Bradford caught a last-minute touchdown from Tivita Pritchard to break USC’s 35-home game winning streak. – Joel Zink | Daily TrojanIt’s equally well-known that the only miscues in between have come at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal.Stanford beat the Trojans twice at home during that time — once in 2001 and once in 2007, which was the fateful 24-23 upset that shocked the college football world.And now, fittingly enough, No. 9 USC (7-2) must face the Cardinal again Saturday in a Homecoming game that could prove instrumental to determining the Pac-10 champion.And after a 51-42 win over Oregon on Saturday, No. 25 Stanford (6-3) made an appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll this week for the first time since 2001.“The fact is that it’s a huge opportunity in the conference for us,” USC coach Pete Carroll said at his Tuesday press conference. “It’s Homecoming. They’re coming off an enormous win. This is a great, great matchup for us.”The pieces are coming together for the Trojans: a month-long homestand to end the season, starters at fullback and tight end returning, and a bye week to follow.But while redshirt junior fullback Stanley Havili and senior tight end Anthony McCoy are expected to be back, USC will likely have to make do without top receiver redshirt junior Damian Williams, who sprained his ankle last Saturday.Williams has more than doubled the receptions of any other pass-catcher this season.And the Cardinal is on the rise. It has consistently outscored opponents this season, 306-221, with their three losses coming by a total of 22 points.They also boast three key offensive weapons who can all run.It starts with redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck, the son of former NFL quarterback and would-be Rhodes Scholar Oliver Luck and exactly the kind of cerebral player you’d expect to lead the offense at Stanford.Luck was the valedictorian of his high school class. He’s thrown just three interceptions in 216 pass attempts this season and completed 58 percent of his passes.“He’s playing great football and they are showing tremendous confidence in him,” Carroll said of the 19-year-old. “They allow him to throw the ball all over the field.”Luck threw for two touchdowns and 251 yards on 20 pass attempts in leading the Cardinal to its victory over Oregon. He also rushed the ball five times, including an 11-yard first-down run in the second quarter.“He’s a big pocket guy, and he’s running well,” Carroll said. “We’re catching him at his very best right now.”Of course, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t ask his rookie quarterback to do most of the heavy lifting for the Cardinal offense. That duty falls to senior running back Toby Gerhart, who — in generating a significant Heisman campaign — has rushed for a Pac-10 leading 1,217 yards this season.The 6-foot-1, 235-pound Gerhart fits every definition of a workhorse back, averaging 26 carries a game.“They have a real obvious core of their offense in Toby Gerhart, just a hammer back there running the football,” Carroll said. “They’ve built their style around his physical nature, and it’s working very well for them.”And then there’s dynamo receiver Chris Owusu, a 6-foot-2, 201-pound sophomore who returns kicks and serves as the starting flanker for the Cardinal.“He’s got terrific speed,” Carroll said. “With three [return] touchdowns, he’s got our attention already.”Owusu is a product of nearby Oaks Christian in Westlake Village, Calif., where he starred alongside USC’s tailback Marc Tyler and cornerback Marshall Jones. He ranks fourth in the nation in kick return average at 33.3 yards per return.Harbaugh embraced the improvement his Cardinal have shown in his third year at the helm.“I think there’s no question that everything that’s happened to us as a football team — well we’re almost going on three years now, the great things, the horrible things, the good, the bad, all the hard work by so many people — makes us who we are,” Harbaugh said at his weekly press conference.And the Cardinal might still be underdogs come Saturday, but a well-played game this time around is not going to be a surprise.“No, it’s not,” junior running back Joe McKnight said. “Stanford’s a pretty good team. They’ve got good players and a disciplined team, so we have to go out there and play disciplined and hard-nosed with them.”
Last year, LAUSD sent verification letters to about 8,000 households. Of those, 1,700 didn’t respond, 176 went from the free to the reduced-price category, and only 36 were changed to full-pay status, said Dennis Barrett, director of food services at LAUSD. Those who didn’t respond – nearly 25percent of those sent verification letters – were removed from the program. But Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said the program should have more safeguards to limit potential fraud. “We all know that there’s going to be some level of fraud,” Coupal said. “There should be more significant consequences for defrauding a program like that, and we rarely see that kind of consequences flow from fraud. “The ultimate goal is to make sure that taxpayers aren’t being ripped off while at the same time trying the achieve the objective of the program.” The last time Congress examined how the government verifies the income of families applying for free and reduced-price lunches was in 2004 as lawmakers prepared to reauthorize the program. A number of federal audits found vast discrepancies between the census counts of low-income households and the number of students receiving free and reduced-price lunches. A study five years ago in New York City’s school district, only one larger than the LAUSD, found about $100 million in potential losses. While the Bush administration proposed strict new verification measures, advocates for the poor questioned the veracity of the studies and accused the administration of swiping tater tots out of the fingers of poor children. “The kinds of steps that were being considered were the types of things that would drive a lot of eligible families away,” said Zoe Neuberger, a senior policy analyst at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank in Washington, D.C. Those intent on eliminating government waste, however, argued – and still do – that maintaining a program’s fiscal integrity is critical. “Showing a pay stub shouldn’t be too much to ask,” said Brian Reidl, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank who in 2003 estimated tighter income verification measures could save the program and the country $12 billion over 10 years. He and other conservatives argued that schools either boosted free-lunch participation or turned a blind eye to likely inaccuracies because the numbers act as a measure for poverty rates – which in many cases determines how much a school gets in funding for everything from books to teachers. Neuberger said she doesn’t expect Congress to take another big crack at income verification until the next reauthorization of the program in 2009. But she and others said they don’t expect a severe crackdown. “There are fairness concerns; there are budgetary concerns,” Neuberger said. But, she added, “There is almost agreement across the board that it is important to make the free and reduced-lunch program accessible to kids.” For the latest school news, go to www.insidesocal.com/education.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! While the $8.2 billion national school lunch program is designed to provide meals to needy students, the system is fraught with loopholes that leave it open to rampant fraud. A recent government report said verification remains a problem in the program that provides about 6.6 billion meals to kids each year at a cost of about $10.2 billion. To participate in the program, parents complete applications listing their income. Random verification checks are performed, but from 2005 to 2006, the study found slightly more than one student in five students who applied and got served was actually ineligible – at a cost of $935 million. “Several data sources suggest that a significant number of ineligible children are receiving free or reduced-price meals,” the auditors wrote. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonLos Angeles Unified School District officials, who sought verification for 8,000 applications last year, said they are in full compliance with the law. “Is there a potential to falsify income in any system in which you gather individual data and don’t review 100 percent of the applications? Yes, that risk exists,” said Michael Eugene, LAUSD’s business manager. “(But) since we’re in full compliance, our major focal point is to get meals to those students who need it.” The federal government requires school districts to audit 3percent of applicants from families whose income falls within $100 of the cutoff – those believed to be the most prone to reporting errors. A child from a family of four making $26,845 or less qualifies for the free-lunch program, while $38,203 is the limit for reduced-price lunches.