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Originally published Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 8:48 PM

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Oregon-USC: Still much at stake

Back at the start of the season, Oregon's game at USC was circled on lots of calendars. It appeared at the time to be the marquee matchup...

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EUGENE, Ore. — Back at the start of the season, Oregon's game at USC was circled on lots of calendars.

It appeared at the time to be the marquee matchup of the Pac-12 season as well as a possible preview of the league championship game, with the Trojans entering the season ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll and Oregon ranked fifth.

Adding to the anticipation was USC's 38-35 upset victory over the Ducks at Autzen Stadium last season.

Eight weeks later, the shine is off the game a bit. USC has lost two games, including a 39-36 loss at Arizona last weekend, and fallen to No. 18 in the AP rankings.

Undefeated Oregon has climbed to No. 2 and has taken aim at a second national championship berth in three seasons. The Ducks are leading the nation with an average of 53.38 points. Their vaunted offense is ranked third with an average of 331 yards rushing and seventh in total offense, averaging 540 yards.

Oregon hasn't dropped a game since that loss to the Trojans last season, a string of 11 straight victories.

So it follows that the Ducks (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) are favored to win Saturday night's game in Los Angeles.

But don't count out USC just yet, warned Colorado coach Jon Embree, who has seen both teams.

"With a team like that, you'd rather play them after a win than a loss," Embree said. "They're going to come out fighting and with a different sense of purpose."

Colorado is the most recent team to fall to the Ducks, losing 70-14 last weekend at Autzen Stadium. The Buffaloes, with just one win this season, really never stood a chance. Oregon led 56-0 at the half and eventually piled up 617 yards of offense.

Earlier in the season, the Buffs lost to the Trojans 50-6 in L.A. USC quarterback Matt Barkley tied his school record by throwing for six touchdowns.

USC's loss to the Wildcats changed the tone of the season for the Trojans, who were picked to win the conference championship and now sit at 6-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference.

The Trojans still lead the Pac-12 South after Arizona State's loss to UCLA, but they lost a chance to get some separation.

Still, USC did put up impressive offensive numbers against Arizona, including Marqise Lee's Pac-12-record 345 yards receiving on 16 catches, along with two touchdowns.

But the Trojans hurt themselves with 13 penalties for 117 yards. USC has been the most penalized team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, with 10.25 penalties for 84.63 yards per game.

Oregon blanked Arizona 49-0 earlier this season.

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