USC’s dynasty is over, but that’s old news.
Recent news, though, is Oregon and whether or not the Ducks will follow the Trojans’ nearly decade-long dynasty with one of their own.
Tomorrow’s game will go a long way toward determining whether or not that actually happens.
Yes, Oregon has been good for a while now — and, recently, very good, qualifying for the Rose Bowl last year for the first time in 14 years.
Yes, former coach Mike Bellotti and current coach Chip Kelly have each found a way to bring big prospects to Eugene in recent years — particularly from the state of Texas in the class of 2008, with both quarterback Darron Thomas (Houston) and running back LaMichael James (Texarkana) coming to school that year.
Yes, Kelly’s scheme confuses the living bejesus out of opponents and no, no one in the football world has come up with the antidote for it yet.
But the Ducks haven’t been that good, they haven’t recruited that well, and their scheme really isn’t all that different from the triple-option that’s been popular in college football for quite a while.
Think back a bit. The Ducks were burned with a very unlucky injury to quarterback Dennis Dixon in 2007, perhaps their best chance to make long-lasting noise on a national scale. Then, they fumbled their next big shot in 2009 when they fell to Ohio State, 26-17 in the Rose Bowl game and finished the season ranked No. 11 in the Coaches and Associated Press polls with three losses.
About recruiting: Kelly said it himself in his teleconference this week. On Oregon’s current depth chart, out of its top-two players at each position, the Ducks have no five-star recruits.
None. Eleven four-stars, though.
To compare, USC has 12 five-stars and 26 players with a four-star rating. That’s 38 of 44 players who were premiere, gourmet prospects, compared with just 11 of 44 — 25 percent — for Oregon. They’re simply not as talented as the Trojans are — at least not yet.
The scheme? It’s called a spread-option, but it’s not that similar to the traditional spread, really. Although Thomas can throw, it’s no throwing team. Thomas and James will run USC’s underperforming front seven silly this week unless the Trojans prove they can stop them.
Here’s the thing, though: During USC’s glory days, the Trojans’ offense was truly unstoppable. A team could maybe limit them but stopping them outright? Nearly impossible. But that essentially happened to Oregon in the Rose Bowl, giving USC hope.
Yes, the Trojans could conceivably hold Oregon to 17 points — not likely, but conceivable. If they stop them, USC could conceivably stop the entire Oregon offense. That hasn’t really happened under Kelly — save for the Rose Bowl, perhaps — but it seems entirely logical.
The Trojans realize all of this, but they also understand they are 6.5 point underdogs this week. Where USC was in about 2003, Oregon is now.
“Once upon a time, we were in their shoes,” senior fullback Stanley Havili said this week. “It was about every week it was like this, so we’re excited.”
“Excited” is an interesting word to use there. The Trojans are excited for two things, it appears, although they come hand in hand: One, to prove their legitimacy as the No. 24-ranked team in the AP poll, and two, to dismiss the Ducks as the new Pac-10 leaders.
They definitely don’t feel comfortable passing any sort of torch, that’s for sure.
“I’m sure they respect us at opponents,” said senior linebacker Malcolm Smith. “I hope that they’re stepping their game up and making sure they’re ready for us as well.”
But when asked if Oregon would become the next USC with a win tomorrow, Smith dismissed the idea.
“No,” he said. “They’ll still be Oregon.”