Oregon-USC: Why the Trojans Will Be the Ducks' Biggest Challenge

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Oregon-USC: Why the Trojans Will Be the Ducks' Biggest Challenge
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

No. 1 Oregon (7-0) will face its biggest challenge of the season when it heads to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans (5-2) this Saturday.

In last season's meeting the Ducks throttled the then-No. 4 Trojans 47-20 at Autzen Stadium.

Both schools will have a lot riding on the line when the two meet at the Coliseum.

Oregon clearly has the most to lose. The Ducks are ranked No. 1 by everyone with eyes and are currently No. 2 in the BCS standings. A win at USC could give Oregon the boost they need from the computers to move into the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings.

The Ducks have run everybody out of the building this year; nobody has been able to hang with them, especially in the second half. So you might expect Oregon to continue their onslaught this weekend in Los Angeles...not so fast.

USC used to run college football just a few short years ago. The once mighty Trojans have now become an afterthought after being banned from bowl competition for violating NCAA rules. The Trojans have the opportunity to jump back into the national spotlight if they can hang tough or even upset Oregon.

The Trojans have actually been a very good team this year. USC's two losses are by a total of three points, and both losses came on last minute field goals against Washington and Stanford. If a couple of plays had gone USC's way, they could very easily be undefeated.

So what can we expect when the Ducks travel to Los Angeles this weekend?

Oregon is going to be truly challenged for the first time this season. USC will be the first tough opponent (and maybe the only tough opponent) that Oregon will face on the road all season. We should see a good old-fashioned shootout at the Coliseum this Saturday.

Both quarterbacks are white-hot right now.

Matt Barkley has established himself as one of college football's top quarterbacks, throwing for 742 yards and eight touchdowns in his last two games. USC wide receivers Ronald Johnson and Robert Woods have really come on strong as of late, and Southern Cal's passing attack could give Oregon's secondary trouble.

Darron Thomas is coming off his game of the season after throwing for 308 yards and three touchdowns against UCLA. Thomas has quietly become one of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-10 and has really become the focal point of the offense.

Oregon running back LaMichael James should also come up big. The Ducks haven't had to rely on James so much in previous games because Oregon has blown everyone out. USC is going to hang tough, so LaMichael should get a lot of touches and rack up a ton of yards. Every year a Heisman candidate has his "signature game"; James may very well have his this weekend.

Saturday's game is going to be close. This will be the closest thing to a bowl game USC is going to play in all year, and they are going to come ready to play with an "us against the world mentality."

Both offenses are going to score a ton. If USC wants to keep up with the Ducks, then USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin is going to have to come up with a scheme to stop at least a couple of Oregon's drives, because there isn't one team in the country that can keep up with Oregon offensively.

Prediction: In a close nail-biter, Oregon 45, USC 38.

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