Oregon Football: Why Showdown with USC Will Easily Be the Best Game in 2012
Is it November 3 yet?
The fun starts the first weekend in September, but it's all just appetizers until the main entree on November 3 in Los Angeles at the Coliseum: USC versus Oregon for all the marbles.
While I love all the current debates and give and take between you loyal Trojans and you obsessed Ducks, I long to settle this one on the field.
If things go the way they should, Oregon versus USC in November will not only be the best game in the Pac-12 in 2012, it will be the best game in the country. Period. End of discussion. SEC who?
Following is my dissertation on the subject.
But Before We Get to the Actual Game...
If Oregon and USC are both undefeated by the close of business on October 27, the hype will begin in earnest.
Note to teams: Oregon, don't overlook Washington State on September 29. USC, don't overlook the team you've lost to the last three years. It's on a Farm somewhere on September 15.
Depending on what happens in the other conferences, the November 3 showdown in L.A. could feature the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country. Wouldn't that be fun?
At the very worst, this game should match up two of the Top 5 teams. I suppose that just a few of the country's media might show up.
I suspect that Fowler, Corso, Herbstreit and Princess Erin have already booked their flights, and the GameDay crew has already scouted a great Coliseum location.
And us fans will have an entire week to jaw at each other. My team is better than yours! No, my team is better than yours!
So, even before the game starts, it's already the best game of the year.
After a full year of arguing, we will finally have an actual game in which to compare guys at certain positions.
John Boyett (John Boyett for Heisman) or T.J. McDonald—who is the best safety in the land? Career stats for both seniors include 181 unassisted tackles for Boyett against 163 for McDonald; nine interceptions for Boyett against six for McDonald; 101 interception return yards for Boyett against 37 for McDonald.
To me, it seems quite clear who the Pac-12's best safety is, but others disagree. This showdown should settle the question once and for all.
Another battle we've been hearing a lot of hoofing about from the Trojan faithful is their star wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee versus Oregon's young secondary. Yes, Lee, in particular, burned the Ducks' CBs in 2011. Will it happen again this year?
I honestly don't know. It depends on how much Terrance Mitchell and Troy Hill grew up during the year. And whether the presence of DE Dion Jordan, who didn't play last year, might force Barkley to throw a little quicker lest he become a Jordan pancake.
Perhaps the most important position battle of all might be the kickers. As you will recall, last year's game came down to a missed field goal by Oregon's Alejandro Maldonado. Until my dying day I will say that with Rob Beard kicking that attempt instead of Maldonado, the Ducks win it.
Let's hope it doesn't come down to a lousy field goal again this year.
There are plenty of other position back stories as well: USC O-line versus Oregon D-line and vice versa. Curtis McNeal versus Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.
There are some very intriguing matchups in this game that will make it the best game of the year.
Matt Barkley, De'Anthony Thomas, Robert Woods, John Boyett, Marqise Lee—who among them is in the running and a legitimate Heisman candidate?
By November 3 the picture should be coming into focus. If Barkley puts up the numbers, stays healthy and the Trojans are undefeated, he will be tough to beat.
If DAT catches fire early and builds throughout the season while the Ducks keep winning, he is bound to generate some buzz.
Woods and Lee are valid candidates, but I believe they split the vote. Kinda like Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet in the same movie.
Y'all think I'm kidding about Boyett, but I'm not. Will this be the year the Heisman voters step outside their QB/RB comfort zone and select a defensive player?
If Boyett makes life miserable for Barkley, McNeal, Woods and Lee all night while the entire country is glued to this faceoff, who knows what might happen?
The other conferences will, no doubt, field authentic candidates, but do not underestimate the power that this showdown so late in the season can have on Heisman voters' minds. Had you even heard of Robert Griffin III last June?
Chip Kelly vs. Lane Kiffin
It is impossible for you to like both Chip Kelly and Lane Kiffin. You must choose just one. They are such different personalities that only one or the other will appeal to you.
If you are an Oregon fan, you believe that Lane Kiffin is a snake in the grass. If you are a Trojans fan, you believe that Lane Kiffin guided the program through its darkest years and is a savior.
If you are an Oregon fan, Chip Kelly is your favorite person in the all-time annals of favorite people, anywhere, anytime, anyhow. If you are a Trojans fan, you despise the ground that Chip Kelly walks on, for he has ruined your life.
Head-to-head, Kelly and Kiffin are 1-1. Here comes the rubber match.
Wash Away 2011 Bad Taste
Earlier in my writing career, I wrote an article titled "Why We Should All Petition the NCAA to Let USC Play in the Pac-12 Championship Game."
My reasoning was that without a true showdown for the conference championship—sorry, UCLA—there would follow a year of second-guessing about North versus South, Oregon versus USC, ad nauseum.
I was right, wasn't I? While the Ducks will throughout history be the first-ever Pac-12 champion, down South they believe there should be an asterisk by the Ducks' name in 2011.
Duck fans believe the Trojans simply snuck up on them last year while their eye was on a return trip to the BCS National Championship Game.
Trojans believe they came into Autzen and showed who was the true king.
The real reason why this game will easily be the best game of the year is that it will answer most of the questions remaining from last year.
Everyone assumes that Oregon and USC will be playing on November 3 to get into the Pac-12 Championship Game for the privilege of probably playing each other again.
However, there are all sorts of things that might go wrong in that scenario.
Oregon is still unsure what chaos the NCAA may create in their investigation of the Willie Lyles affair. The conventional wisdom around these parts is that Oregon will only get a slap on the wrist; but why is it taking so long?
Also, funny and not-so-funny things can happen on the way to an undefeated season. That is, after all, why they make us play the games.
Barkley or DAT could get hurt.
Any number of players from both teams could get arrested this summer and tilt the balance. Hey, I'm not being negative—it happens.
Other teams and new coaches in the conference may have something to say about the balance of power.
Oregon versus USC on November 3 will still be the best game all year. It just might have a little different look about 135 days from today than it does now.
Chill the beer.
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