This Halloween, Oregon will take on USC in a college football showdown. The Ducks have made a spectacular turnaround since their week one disaster in Boise. Since losing that game and embarrassing the program in its aftermath, Oregon has rocketed into the top 10. They have won six straight games behind a stingy defense and productive running game. Both are surprising. The defense is young and inexperienced, losing six starters from a year ago. The running game was to rely on LeGarrette Blount, but his sucker punch of a Boise player has left him on the bench. The young defense plays loose and recklessly, a style that has served them well (Oregon is ranked 19th in total defense). The ground attack is also led by youth. Freshman, LaMichael James has been impressive carrying the ball. James broke out in the third week against Utah, rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown. He followed that effort up with a 100-yard effort against Cal and two more scores in victory over Washington State. In each of the past two weeks, the super frosh eclipsed 150 yards again. His emergence has been at the heart of the turnaround for Oregon.
But, will that be enough to take down the mighty Trojans of USC?
USC has won 7 consecutive Pac-10 titles, and is in position for another. With a win, the Ducks could end their reign atop the Pac-10 and their streak of BCS bowl games. A USC win would continue the trend and keep their national championship hopes alive. This is USC’s toughest opponent so far. Trojans have proven to be vulnerable: losing to Washington, struggling to beat a mediocre Ohio State squad, and having difficulties putting away an average Notre Dame team. This will certainly provide the Trojans quite a test.
It is in Autzen Stadium, possibly the loudest venue in all of college football. The Oregon defense will be the best they see this year, and the spread offense of Oregon has always been capable of scoring points. Can Matt Barkley handle a real defense and hostile crowd? Shredding Notre Dame’s defense is nothing special and doesn’t make Barkley the next Brady or Montana. Just because it’s USC doesn’t mean this game is over. The 2009 Trojans aren’t the same dominating force of recent memory.
With that in mind, and the x-factor of Autzen, anything can happen. Especially on Halloween night.