With USC losing to Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif. on Saturday night, it’s fair to say the coronation of Matt [email protected]@http://espn.go.com/college-football/player/_/id/480322/matt-barkley@@ and Southern Cal as the kings of the Pac-12 came a tad early.
I see how it would be easy to get caught up in the hype. Media reports across the country were seemingly waiting for someone other than an SEC powerhouse to become nationally relevant, and with Matt Barkley as the face of the program and a Heisman candidate, people jumped the gun on claiming them as the next big thing in college football.
The loss to Stanford does two things now — not only does it shake up the hierarchy of the conference, especially in the South where Jim [email protected]@look at his face http://blog.mysanantonio.com/rickhill/files/2012/06/mora1.jpg@@ has the Bruins playing some inspired football, but this can also serve as a wake-up call to Oregon.
Now let’s not to get too ahead of ourselves and make it sound like the USC loss is the equivalent of Appalachian State beating Michigan in the Big House in 2007, it’s not. Stanford is a top 25 team and was playing at home in a game that many people believed would be close. In the end they executed it better than USC did, and having Stepfan [email protected]@http://www.gostanford.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/taylor_stepfan00.html@@ rush for more than 150 yards on the Trojan defensive line didn’t hurt their chances either. On Saturday evening they were the better team and the result showed that.
So what does this USC loss mean for Oregon? I’m sure Chip Kelly will say that it doesn’t mean a thing, and in some sense he’s right. Oregon still controls their destiny, and the matchup in Los Angeles on Nov. 3 will still probably be the most anticipated of the year. What this game should serve as for the Ducks is a reminder that conference play is beginning and it is a whole different animal than their first few “tune-ups” of the year.
Oregon has not played anyone up to this point that has tested them in the least, and to their credit they have taken care of business. They are 3-0 and are currently No. 3 ranked team in the nation according to the AP [email protected]@http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/blog/college-football-rapidreports/20215003/pac12-voter-breakdown-week-3-ap-top-25@@. However, at times they’ve been sloppy and not executed as crisply as fans would like. Marcus [email protected]@http://www.goducks.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=500&ATCLID=205238133@@ has not truly been tested and while most expect him to flourish in conference play, he has not faced a true Pac-12 defense yet.
The Pac-12 is a major conference, and none of the opponents the Ducks are about to faceoff against should be taken lightly. It just takes one game of not being completely focused and keyed in to alter the season for a team with national title aspirations, just ask USC.
While I’m sure none of them will admit it, I’m willing to bet the players and coaches all saw the USC result and hopefully they realize it’s time to strap on their helmets and get back to work — the cake walk is over.