What about Oregon?

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
1:00
PM ET
ESPN.com Insider KC Joyner thinks folks are over-hyping USC at the expense of Oregon, which he seems to view as the Pac-12 favorite. Or at least co-favorite.

But he doesn't just assert. He supports his position with seven thoughtful reasons. Insider

His main points:
  • Oregon's offensive losses are not as great as generally thought.
  • The USC pass offense has consistency issues.
  • USC's defense has similar consistency issues.
  • USC has a young shutdown cornerback, but so does Oregon.
  • USC took a bigger offseason hit to its pass rush than did Oregon.
  • Oregon's defense is better at forcing opposing offenses into mistakes.
  • Oregon's schedule strength is very similar to USC's.

You'll have to read the article to learn how he supports these points, but I think USC's status as Pac-12 favorite and national title contender hangs on four issues.
  • The Trojans need to stay healthy, particularly quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Curtis McNeal and both lines.
  • Who replaces Matt Kalil at left tackle?
  • The Trojans have questions on the defensive line.
  • Can the Trojans overcome a longstanding tendancy to have at least one game a season when they just don't show up?

The defensive questions are legit, but keep in mind the Trojans' young linebacker are fast and talented, and the secondary has a chance to be the best in the Pac-12.

Still, I think you can reduce it to this: If USC stays healthy on offense, it will be able to outscore just about anyone, and that will overcome defensive questions.

Will it be enough to overcome Oregon on Nov. 3 in the Coliseum? My hunch today is yes. But a hunch on February 24 is worthless, particularly when we don't yet know what sort of production the Ducks will get out of their new quarterback.

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