Five things to watch:
Can the Trojans get up to speed? It's not just that the Ducks play fast. They do everything fast, including getting plays in and snapping the ball. Rumor has it they can brush their teeth in seven seconds flat, and they don't skip the molars. Several USC defenders made reference to how confused opposing defenses look against these guys, in part because they just don't have enough time to substitute, read the offense and get set. As young as this USC defense is, if things start to get wild and woolly, Oregon could start to do what it has been doing to other teams: embarrass them.
What will Monte Kiffin come up with? Oregon's spread-option offense would seem to be the worst possible matchup for the Trojans' 70-year old defensive guru. The concepts he came up with were hatched in the NFL to slow down short-passing attacks that had taken over the league. The Tampa 2 will be useless against Oregon. He said so himself. This game will test Kiffin's creativity. It's a fair guess that he spoke with Pete Carroll this week, since it was Carroll who spent years adapting Kiffin's concepts to the college game.
Will the offense try to do too much? That's exactly what Matt Barkley says happened last year. Aware of how explosive Oregon's offense can be, the Trojans tried to do everything faster and better than they had done them before. Things didn't work out well in a 47-20 blowout loss in Eugene, Ore. Barkley vows that it won't happen a second time and he's playing with loads of confidence right now, so it's easier to believe him.
Can the Trojans protect the ball? Something has to give. Oregon's defense leads the nation with 25 turnovers and is fifth with 13 interceptions. Barkley has thrown just four interceptions (against 20 touchdown passes) all year. He says he's not worried about it this week. "When you look at film, it seems like a lot of those were just poorly thrown balls. If I'm smart with the ball, not trying to force it and make it all happen, I'll be fine," Barkley said.
Will the crowd bring the noise? The ambiance in the Coliseum hasn't been the same this season, which makes perfect sense since the team has lost six of its last 20 games and is playing under NCAA sanctions. But Southern California football fans have been thirsting for a big game like this and odds are the old building will be rocking Saturday evening. Keeping Oregon's offense quiet early and giving them something to cheer about could make this the Ducks' stiffest test yet.