Year in, and year out, it's all about the Trojans. Six straight years of winning the Pac-10 (and yes, I only count it winning the Pac-10 if you take the top bowl slot). But here's what I find most impressive: Since 2002, USC has not lost a game by more than 7 points. I don't even want to try and count the number of Oregon losses by more than a touchdown since the Ducks last won a Pac-10 title. It is simply disgusting what USC has accomplished under Pete Carrol.
But this weekend, Oregon has a chance to end that run of USC dominance in dramatic fashion.
First of all, if the Trojans do not win this game, it will be very tough for them to win the Pac-10 title. They will be 3 games behind Oregon in the race for the Rose Bowl, with a very good Arizona team still on the schedule.
But, this is the first Oregon team in some time that I've really thought has not only the team that can run with the Trojans, but run over them.
Now, this game will not be easy. USC is, as always, a very good football team. They are talented at every position, and are particularly experienced at running back and offensive line. They also have talented receivers that will test Oregon's depleted secondary like they have no been tested this season.
On defense, they have one of the best players in the country in Taylor Mays, whose ability to cover the entire field can make up for mistakes made by other players. The Trojan front seven is as fast or faster as the Oregon front seven.
They are a very good football team. Yet, there seems to be something missing. For the talent that is on this team, they have not been beating teams as is expected. Ohio State is a mediocre football team, and yet they couldn't move the ball for 3 1/2 quarters. Only the offensive ineptitude of Jim Tressel kept the Trojans in the game. They lost to a Washington squad because they couldn't stop Jake Locker on his final drive, and backup QB Aaron Corp turned in a simply terrible performance throwing the ball. After handling Cal on the road, in what has been their most impressive victory of the season, they struggled against Notre Dame and Oregon State. While niether of these teams are bad, they are teams that USC had chances to put away. But they did not do that.
It's as if USC were Teddy KGB, and his opponents were just hanging around, and hanging around.
Oregon's season has gone quite different. The Ducks, after struggling through the first few games, have learned how to put the hammer down on the opposition. They blew out Cal and WSU. Then, they went on the road against UCLA and Washington, and though the Ducks struggled in the beginning, showed that it can bury a team in a matter of minutes.
Unlike previous Oregon teams, that have seemed to let up at times, and allowed other teams to stay in games, these Ducks have ended that. When there are opportunities or big plays to be made, these Ducks make them. When the offense makes a big play, the defense ups the ante. If the defense comes up with a big stop, the offense will drive the length of a field for a score.
In this game, I feel that the matchups are very even. The Ducks have a more explosive offense that has been hit or miss throughout the season, much like USC. Both defenses have been excellent this year (outside of USC's baffling issues the last 2 games). Both teams are deep and have strong special teams. Both teams will be well-prepared and well coached. These are two good football teams, with a lot of talent.
Because of this, I feel that this game will come down to which team has that flair for the dramatic, to which team responds to the turnovers and big plays. The game will go to the team can grab momentum and run with it. Oregon has shown that ability and USC has not.
Autzen will be at full capacity and will be out for blood. With Oregon on a roughly even playing field with the Trojans, I can see them turning a play here or there, and before you know it, the Ducks are up, and up for good.
With an explosive offense and stout defense, I don't see this Duck team letting up. They will fight hard to the final minute.
And due to the hard work these Ducks have been putting in every week, they have a chance to do something very special this Halloween night, and emphatically end 7 years of USC dominance.