Kenjon Barner will shine as the starter this season
Coming off an impressive 50-point first half against Arkansas State, the Oregon Ducks do not appear to have dropped off one bit following the loss of stars LaMichael James and Darron Thomas.
Instead, a new crop of stars were on display for America to see last night, as new quarterback Marcus Mariota, along with returning stars De'Anthony Thomas, Josh Huff and Kenjon Barner steamrolled their undermanned opponent in a stunning offensive display.
Oregon's big victory, couple with USC's destructive offense, makes the USC-Oregon matchup the marquee game of both team's schedules. In fact, with a quick glance at Oregon's schedule, an undefeated 8-0 record is almost a given heading into Los Angeles on November 3rd.
Due to the lack of power teams like we regularly see in the SEC, USC also has a clear path to being undefeated heading into the Oregon weekend.
Oregon's schedule is littered with mediocre conference opponents like Arizona, Washington and Washington State, while having only one decent non-conference opponent in Fresno State.
The unique thing about the Pac-12 this season, though, is the loser of the Oregon-USC game will still have a very good chance at making the BCS title game. In fact, winning the game might only count for psychological points.
While there is always the chance that two or more power conference teams will go undefeated, recent history shows a one loss team has a great chance at making the championship game.
Ideally, for Oregon to reach the title game, they would need to pull a mild upset at the Coliseum, then successfully defend their home field in the conference championship game in what can almost be guaranteed to be a rematch against the Trojans.
While many will pick USC to reach the BCS title game with their potent offense, Oregon showed they are just as capable last night. Oregon is coming off a thrilling Rose Bowl victory last season and of course a close, last-second loss to Auburn in the BCS title game the year before. So experience is on their side.
From a coaching standpoint, while Lane Kiffin can recruit with the best of them, Chip Kelly has gained valuable coaching experience the past few seasons that should serve the Ducks well when it comes time for the season's biggest match-ups. Based on their schedule this season, this is how I see Oregon stacking up with its opponents as it strives to go 12-0 in the regular season.
2012 Schedule with Projected Scores:
September 8: Fresno State 64-21 (2-0)
September 15: Tennessee Tech 77-7 (3-0)
September 22: Arizona, 56-21 (4-0)
September 29: Washington State, 63-30 (5-0)
October 6: Washington, 35-24 (6-0)
October 18: Arizona State, 42-28 (7-0)
October 27: Colorado, 56-20 (8-0)
November 3: USC, 38-35 (9-0)
November 10: California, 42-18 (10-0)
November 17: Stanford, 31-21 (11-0)
November 24: Oregon State, 63-10 (12-0)