Daily Titan Sports Editor
The college football season is no where near over, but this season’s Pac-10 champion could be decided this Saturday when the fourth-ranked USC Trojans and 10th-ranked Oregon Ducks clash at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.
At the beginning of the season, Oregon was left for dead. After former running back LeGarrette Blount’s punch was heard around the world on Boise State’s Byron Hout, everyone and their mother said the Ducks’ season was as good as over. But they regrouped and have not lost since, posting a 6-1 record, while currently sitting atop the conference at a perfect 4-0.
The Trojans on the other hand, opened the season as usual with a lopsided win over measly San Jose State, followed by a huge win in Columbus, Ohio, over the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, they also followed that up by dropping a 16-13 stunner to the Washington Huskies on the road.
The Trojans refocused and have looked impressive on the offensive side of the ball since then. At 6-1 overall and 3-1 against conference opponents, they still control their own destiny. But their biggest question mark going into this upcoming matchup is their defense.
Before its past two matchups against Notre Dame and Oregon State, the Trojan defense was allowing 8.6 points per game. The Fighting Irish put up 27, while the Beavers one-uped that by hanging 36 on a vaunted defense, which to that point seemed impenetrable.
Year in and year out the Ducks always possess a very dangerous and explosive offense. This year is no exception.
Despite the loss of Blount for the remainder of the season, the Ducks are still averaging 34 points and 368.1 yards in total offense a game. Not too shabby.
The Trojan offense on the other hand, is averaging 31.4 a game while putting up 440.4 yards in total offense.
So which offense is going to give in? The way things have gone so far, it might end up that neither will.
Look, everyone knows the Ducks have never been known for their defense, as they put basically all their most talented players on the offensive side of the ball, but the Trojans have so much talent that they are able to occupy basically every position with top-notch talent.
Take a second to think about what names pop up when thinking about Trojan football. OK, Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart come straight to mind. But what about Rey Maualuga, Keith Rivers, Troy Polamalu, Sedrick Ellis and current free-safety terror Taylor Mays?
No opposing offensive player ever looks forward to running into these freaks of nature. And this year, although young on defensive side of the ball, there is still a lot of talent that simply is not known yet. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and Chris Galippo are both excellent, while the secondary boasts the likes of Mays, Josh Pinkard, Will Harris, and Kevin Thomas. On the inside of the line, nightmares such as Nick Perry, Everson Griffen, and Armond Armstead can be found.
When thinking about the Ducks, who comes to mind on defense? It’s not a knock on the players they have, but everyone knows where their talent lies. Think of names like Jonathan Stewart, and Dennis Dixon.
And that’s where this Ducks team can definitely hurt the Trojans. With quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, this offense has shined. Running back LaMichael James has done well since Blount was booted from playing again this season. James has rushed for 735 yards with 6 touchdowns â€“ not bad for a guy considered to be the backup at the beginning of the season.
So how will this game play out? Well, the game is at Autzen Stadium, which over the past few decades has become a destination nightmare for just about every team.
Teams like Notre Dame, Michigan and USC squads have all felt the wrath of the vaunted Oregon fans’ chants in upset losses. It’s more or less what is expected from trips to Eugene, Ore.
But it’s hard to imagine quarterback Matt Barkley will succumb to the Ducks this Saturday. The freshman has so many weapons around him that will ease a lot of the pressure he will be feeling from the crowd. With do-it-all receiver Damian Williams, running back Joe Mcknight and versatile fullback Stanley Havili, it’s not like Barkley won’t have a lot of help. Don’t forget the emergence of bulldozing running back Allen Bradford either. Say hello to the new version of LenDale White.
Oh, and Barkley also has Ronald Johnson back from an injury making plays at receiver opposite Williams.
So what does this all mean?
Well, don’t expect the Trojans to simply come into Autzen and blowout the Ducks. It’s not going to happen. There will be too much offense on the field from both squads, and the way the Trojans defense has played the last couple of weeks, everything points to an all-out night of fireworks.
No disrespect to the other teams, especially the Arizona Wildcats, but with both teams basically playing to be crowned 2009 Pac-10 champions, expect the scoreboard operator to earn his paycheck this Saturday. The Trojan defense will make one or two key stops to help take a 49-36 victory over the Ducks behind its plethora of explosive talent.