Oregon is fresh off a Pac-10 championship. While they did lose to more experienced Ohio State, lets not talk about that part.
USC is the talk of the Pac right now. Between the new coach, recruiting foul-ups, and the sanctions, they are definitely the center of attention.
One thing the polls seem to always get wrong is overrating USC. Every single year they seem to mess up their "surely undefeated season" by losing to Stanford, Washington, or some other underdog.
Next year will be no different.
There are three reasons why USC will not win the Pac-10 next year (note: I realize that they are technically not allowed to win the Pac-10. I refer to the ability to finish at the top, and thus "win" the Pac-10).
Those reasons are: scheduling, coaching, and a lack of talent.
Lets tackle these one at a time.
First off, the schedule. For the full schedule, check this out . The out of conference schedule? Pathetic. I suppose Hawaii and Notre Dame would be the toughest OOC competition, but if they lose any of them I'd be surprised.
The real competition will come from within the conference. Washington and Stanford kick it off (WAZZU doesn't count as a football team). Washington is a home game, and the last time the Huskies visited USC, it was ugly... your-grandma-in-lingerie kind of ugly.
However, last year, the Huskies beat USC. USC will want vengeance.
Jake Locker and company will look to take it to USC in their own field this time around, and don't be surprised if they come off victorious. The Huskies have challenged USC before, and know how to win. This is Locker's last year, so don't be surprised to see him play the best game of his career on October 2nd. USC goes to 4-1.
USC next faces Stanford. Stanford beat USC last year—in Los Angeles, something quite rare. Especially since Stanford is usually a pathetic Pac-10 team.
This year the Cardinal don't have Toby Gerhart...but they do still have an outstanding quarterback in Andrew Luck, and an awesome offensive line. My prediction? Stanford wins by three, and USC goes down to 4-2.
Next comes California—an easy win there. But after a bye week, comes the Pac-10 game of the year. USC Vs. Oregon; Kiffin Vs. Kelly; Trojans Vs. Ducks. I can't get enough of it...it's going to be freaking huge. And it's the USC homecoming game to put the icing on the cake.
Both teams have to win, and USC will be bloodthirsty after a loss last year in Oregon.
I think Oregon will win. Now hear me out; I know they haven't won there since 2000 and all that. But this year, there's a little somethin somethin in the air.
The Ducks will have an established leader in either Costa or Thomas at this point, and the offense should be gelling well. The defense is already considered a dominant force with several Ducks on watch lists. The combination will spell doom for USC.
I predict the Trojans to go in cocky...yes, cocky (sex joke not intended). The same classic downfall since the beginning of football. After starting 5-2, coming off a bye week, thinking everything is fine...Oregon will bring the hurt. I really do mean it, there's a huge chance USC goes in there cocky.
Then Oregon beats them with defense. Containing Matt Barkley will be the key, whether the Trojans are cocky or not (I'm sorry...it just sounds wrong doesn't it?). If he can be controlled, forced to make bad passes, and slammed to the turf multiple times, I think Oregon will win.
So now USC is 5-3, they're also a little depressed and kinda pissed off. The next two games will provide some great rebound against Arizona and Arizona State. That makes 7-3.
Then USC faces Oregon State—the official dark horse of the Pac-10. Oregon State has taken down USC at home before, and you better believe they can do it again. The Rodgers brothers will seek a glorious departure this year, and a win over USC would certainly put them there.
Plus, Oregon State also has a very experienced secondary returning. Albeit it wasn't a very good one, if they can get their passing game above Matt Barkley's, its a win for the Beavers.
The one weak spot for Oregon State, like Oregon, will be at quarterback. The battle is between Ryan Katz and Peter Lalich, both inexperienced—it will take time for either to adjust. But when November 20th rolls around, they'll be ready.
So assuming now that the Dam Workers take down USC in Corvallis for the third time in a row, that puts USC at 7-4.
The following week USC faces off against their oldest rival—Notre Dame. It's going to be a classic showdown, between two very classic teams.
Notre Dame will feature a new coach, new quarterback, and will all around be a very new team. On the other hand, USC will be returning quite a few starters on offense, and have a good front seven on defense.
Though this rivalry is always a good one, USC should take home the victory fairly easily. USC becomes 8-4.
For the last game, USC faces instate rival UCLA. This year its at the Rose Bowl, and it is not going to be easy. I'm picking UCLA in an upset.
Kevin Prince should be putting up good numbers, and for some reason I see UCLA finishing strong. I think they'll be fighting for a bowl spot, and will give USC the fight of their lives.
After that, USC finishes 9-4—the same record as last year. Bowl worthy? Of course, but it won't place them in the top 25, and I personally think Lane Kiffin will see the end to yet another one year coaching stint in a bowl game before January.
To hear about the other reasons USC won't finish atop the Pac-10, check out part two of the series!