On Halloween night the USC Trojans will be looking to keep their BCS Title dreams on pace once more.
However, Oregon will attempt to win and keep the Rose Bowl as their destination on the first day of the New Year. The loser will likely miss out on the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
USC, ranked 4th in the BCS shoot for their eight consecutive Pac-10 crown while fixing defensive issues which were magnified against Oregon State last week.
Chip Kelly and Oregon (6-1,4-0) look to defeat Pete Carroll and take the Pac-10 lead. If USC wants to go to Pasadena then they need a strong performance from their stout defense. Last week the Beavers manufactured nearly 500 yards of total offense on USC (6-1, 3-1) in a 42-36 loss at the Coliseum.
Senior safety Taylor Mays will be needed to lead the secondary against the explosive Oregon offense. LB Chris Galippo will be key in sniffing out Jerimiah Masoli's signals up in Eugene. The Trojans allowed the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame 367 yards of total offense although they held on 34-27 in South Bend.
Jerimiah Masoli has been instrumental in Oregon's six-game winning streak. In Oregon's first game, LeGarrette Blount punched a Bose State player at the end and was suspended for the rest of the season. However, over the past couple of months, he's shown a deep remorse for his actions and Chip Kelly will likely reinstate him in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, Oregon has been just fine without Blount.
Since being left for dead against Boise St., Oregon has scored 230 points behind the 129.1 QB Rating of Jerimiah Masoli, although it ranks 56th in the nation. The Duck defense has allowed only 38 combined points in their last four games with a 52-6 thrashing of Washington State on October 3.
Oregon running back LaMichael James has been vital in the rushing attack, going for 735 yards on 107 carries with 6 TD's. Masoli, a weapon himself, has seven rushing TD's with 272 yards. The tight end Ed Dickson will matchup with USC's TE Anthony McCoy who has 16 catches for 375 yards and an averages a mind boggling 23.4 yards per catch. Dickson is undeniably Oregon's top threat in the passing game, as he 27 catches for 362 yards and four touchdowns.
The key for #10 Oregon will be keeping the pesty Trojan's off balance throughout the night. Their staff will have to mix up the play-calling and keep Pete Carroll guessing as they did in 2007 in Oregon's upset. Autzen Stadium, the house of horrors should be Oregon's key advantage as it always seems to be.
Let's not lose sight of USC's Matt Barkley who has played extremely well and confident this season.
Barkley may have trouble throwing in the rain but that's the only concern. He's won at Ohio State, Notre Dame and Cal already which might be the most impressive road wins of any quarterback on the road besides Tim Tebow. Honestly, Barkley should be in the Heisman talk, although he has no shot of winning as a freshman.
Allen Bradford who is a tough runner ran for 147 yards on Oregon State in the absence of Stafon Johnson and Marc Tyler. He and Joe McKnight will carry the load the rest of the way unless talented junior CJ Gable can somehow emerge out the dog house. Look for Oregon to get a heavy dose of the ground game early and often.
Damian Williams has been special in the return game and at wide receiver and is the most underrated receiver in the nation. He explosive and runs crisp routes each game making him Barkley's favorite weapon. Matt's arsenal doesn't stop their because Ronald "Rojo" Johnson came back from a broken collarbone against Notre Dame and looked everage but looked legite last week versus Oregon State.
USC's offensive balance should keep them ahead of the chains, avoiding long third downs.
Masoli and the Oregon offense will need to score a lot and stay ahead also. Their special teams will have to give them good field position throughout the game while the defense needs to produce turnovers to boost the offense and lift the crowd.
Pete Carroll will have his defense well prepared and disciplined. Not to mention he rarely loses big games so he also has that in his back pocket.
This top 10 Halloween treat should be the best we've seen in a while and anything can happen when you come to play night in and night out. I wouldn't expect the 44-10 stomping in 2008 in L.A.
However, I still like USC 28-24 in a tremendous battle.