Sitting in the Coliseum on a chilly Saturday night, a small sense of concern swept the Oregon fans sitting in Section 3, if only for a moment. USC had surprised the Ducks with two quick touchdowns to take the lead.
But Oregon's "blur offense," behind Heisman front-runner LaMichael James (249 yards rushing) and sophomore QB Darron Thomas (four touchdowns, one interception), obliterated USC in the second half for a convincing 53-32 victory.
Oregon only has two serious obstacles remaining—Arizona at home and Oregon State on the road. Oregon appears locked in on the BCS title game.
USC was the class of the Pac-10 until their fall from grace precipitated by Reggie Bush and his eligibility issues. Coach Pete Carroll is gone, and with him a lot of the luster for USC home games. Although the crowd was announced at over 88,000, there was a noticeable void in the upper sections throughout the stadium. Decent tickets were available at the ticket office for only $55 at kickoff.
This certainly wasn't the USC of old. GameDay and ABC were there, but that didn't matter to Oregon. They were there to take care of business.
Coach Chip Kelly continued to show his inner Steve Spurrier by going for two on the first Oregon touchdown, and converting.
For Auburn fans, the scariest thing about this game was the way the first half ended. Oregon, already up by double digits, got the ball back with just over a minute remaining. In the blink of an eye, the Ducks were poised to score again and take a 36-17 lead into the half.
But Darron Thomas fumbled when he was hit from behind, USC recovered, and going into the half, USC theoretically still had a chance.
Coming out of the locker room, USC took charge early by rattling off two touchdowns, one coming off another Thomas miscue, and all of a sudden the Ducks were behind.
If there is a trend with Oregon this season, it is that they struggle for a bit on the road before really hitting the accelerator and putting the game away. This game was no different. The Ducks of old may have wilted under the pressure of falling behind to a storied program like USC in a hostile environment, but not this team.
It is too composed, too well-coached, too cool under pressure.
It handled 107,000 rowdy fans at Neyland.
It survived falling behind 21-0 to a 7-1 Stanford team.
But the way it fights back is what separates it from every other team in the country.
It's the reason it is No. 1 in the human polls and deserves to be No. 1 in the BCS.
Opposing defenses cannot stop the Ducks offense. To beat Oregon, one basically needs to score at least 50 points. For Auburn fans, that might be the only thing to be positive about in a potential BCS championship game.
Auburn can score points, and Auburn has the star power to match up with the Ducks.
As well as the scoreboard said Oregon played last night, 53 should have been 67. Remember, those two turnovers by Thomas were atypical. Oregon also punted a few times last night, which is not something Oregon fans are accustomed to seeing.
The bottom line is simple: Oregon's offense is too fast, too quick and simply too good for defenses to stop.
For Oregon fans of the past and present, including myself, this is the year of the Duck. This is the year Oregon truly controls its own destiny and can win the national championship.
But for that to happen, the Oregon players and coaching staff need to continue to buy in to the concept of the "faceless opponent" and treat every team they play the same. Anyone who has watched them play knows they have the talent to win it all, but the games still have to be played.
Somewhere down in Alabama today, Cam Newton and his teammates are thinking about Oregon, but they have a bigger issue to deal with first: Alabama.