Oregon put a dent in the crown, but they still don't reign the Pac-10
After beating USC 47-20 on Saturday, the Ducks have an edge in the conference, but there is still plenty of games left to be played.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
The belief here last week was that for the well-being of the Pac-10 Conference, an Oregon victory over USC would be a good thing.
You know the recent history of the league, as well as the national perception: USC reigns, with no accompanying jolt for the rest of the Pac-10. While the Trojans have won or tied for seven straight conference championships, the league hasn't had two BCS entries since 2002.
So the theory was: Somebody else win it, and the national sway USC holds will carry it along to a BCS bowl, too.
Fine job then, Ducks. But did you have to pound the Trojans, punish the Trojans — purée them — so ruthlessly that Sugar or Fiesta Bowl officials might look at USC and go, gulp?
Maybe it's too early to say the king is dead after Oregon's 47-20 victory Saturday night in Eugene. But it's safe to say he's feeling nauseous. If that wasn't a defrocking, it was every bit a demolition.
The Ducks had 613 yards, 10 off the opponent record Notre Dame put up on USC — in 1946. In a week's time, Oregon and Oregon State put up 83 points on the Trojans. You have to go back to late 1986 — Ted Tollner was coaching USC then — to find a total as big over two games.
Oregon played hyper-fast, certain of itself. USC looked ponderous and unsure, increasingly flummoxed by the speed and diversity of the Ducks' offense.
Oregon unleashed players in space. USC seemed lost in space.
There was a simple play that captured it all — Oregon's 5-yard touchdown from LaMichael James, running left, to make it 34-20 in the third quarter. Left tackle Bo Thran blocked down on USC end Nick Perry, caving him in. Tight end Ed Dickson roamed into that hole and cleaned out safety Will Harris toward the back of the end zone.
Right guard Mark Asper pulled and mashed USC safety Taylor Mays aside at the 2. The middle linebacker, Chris Galippo, bought quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's move to the right and ran himself out of the play.
James just pranced into the end zone. The guy for whom the field is named, Rich Brooks, would have scored on the play, and he's 68.
November came too late for the Trojans. This is the month in which coach Pete Carroll is 27-0 at USC. But it's a tricky climb back into another co-championship for the Trojans (6-2, 3-2), requiring that they win out and Oregon (7-1, 5-0) lose twice.
Arizona (5-2, 3-1) is still a factor, and the Ducks can hardly exhale. They go to Tucson on Nov. 21, but travel this week to meet a good Stanford team (5-3, 4-2), packing whatever distraction might come of the possible reinstatement of running back LeGarrette Blount.
That September night in Boise that seemed so surreal has now assumed an added element of implausibility. It's almost incomprehensible that the Oregon offense that shamed USC began its opener at Boise State with seven consecutive three-and-outs before it got a first down.
Now Oregon is ranked seventh by AP, eighth in the BCS standings, best of the one-loss teams. Win out, and it's not unrealistic that the Ducks, with help, could complete a who-knew comeback and play for the national title.
Towed happily in Oregon's wake is Boise State, still unbeaten and grateful for the reflected glory of the Ducks' resurgence. The Broncos are No. 5 in the polls and hopeful of fending off a better-credentialed TCU team for a BCS bowl.
As for the Trojans, BCS bowls are hardly the issue right now. It's apparent that even at USC, you don't always just restock, like Home Depot when it runs out of sprinkler heads.
The Trojans replaced a quarterback now starting in the NFL with a true freshman. No matter how Carroll touted them, the linebacker replacements for first-day draftees Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga have been merely OK, nothing extraordinary.
Lately, they've lost to injury tight end Anthony McCoy and fullback Stanley Havili, and before that, running back Stafon Johnson.
In Eugene, it all roiled up and they lost big. And a dynasty teetered.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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