The transition of power in the Pac-10 from Southern California to Oregon started in 2007, reached a major milestone last year and could be complete by the end this season.
The next step for the top-ranked Ducks comes Saturday, when they try to win on USC’s turf for the first time since 2000. That was before Pete Carroll led the Trojans on the most dominant run in the history of Pac-10 football.
USC won seven straight conference titles from 2002-2008. The Ducks did manage to beat the Trojans in ‘07 and appeared poised to win the conference, but an injury to Dennis Dixon thwarted those chances and USC again went to the Rose Bowl.
In 2008, the Trojans pounded Oregon 44-10 in Los Angeles and it seemed as if USC might just rule the Pac-10 forever.
That was before USC went to Eugene last year and coach Chip Kelly’s Ducks handed the Trojans what at that point was the worst beating of the Carroll era.
Oregon zipped past USC for 613 yards, 319 on the ground, and beat the Trojans 47-20.
From there, the Ducks soared to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans tumbled to an 8-4 season and Carroll left when it was done.
Oregon continues to climb. Two weeks ago, the Ducks rose to No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time. They are also second in the BCS standings. Keep winning and Oregon will likely play in the BCS national championship game.
Under coach Lane Kiffin, USC (5-2) is no longer a national title threat. The Trojans have lost twice on last-second field goals and, while their offense is still explosive, USC’s defense ranks 87th in the nation.
How much has the hierarchy of the Pac-10 changed in the last year? Oregon is a touchdown favorite in the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC hasn’t been an underdog at home since 2001 against UCLA, according to oddsmaker RJ Bell of Pregame.com. The Trojans haven’t been underdogs of seven points or more at the Coliseum since 1997 against UCLA.
The Trojans can’t go to a bowl this season as they dig out from NCAA sanctions, so this is their Rose Bowl.
For the Ducks, this might be the toughest hurdle standing between them and a trip to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 10 title game.
“USC is the most talented team in our league, by far,” Kelly said.
USC’s Matt Barkley is the highest-rated passer in the Pac-10, the Trojans are averaging more than 200 yards on the ground and their offense just might be able to keep up with Heisman trophy contender LaMichael James and the high-speed Ducks.
And remember, conference road games have undone Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma the last three weeks.
Or Oregon could squash USC again, showing the Trojan dynasty is truly dead.
No. 16 Florida State (minus 3½) at N.C. State — Teams combined for 1,093 yards in 45-42 FSU win last year ... FLORIDA STATE 38-24.
No. 1 Oregon (minus 7) at No. 24 Southern California — Trojans last stand ... USC 48-42.
No. 3 Auburn (minus 7) at Mississippi — Nine straight years, Tigers have won game that follows LSU game ... AUBURN 35-30.
No. 4 TCU (minus 35) at UNLV — Horned Frogs have allowed 10 points in last four games ... TCU 48-6.
No. 5 Michigan State (plus 6½) at No. 18 Iowa — The Big Ten race gets muddled if Hawkeyes win ... IOWA 28-24.
No. 7 Missouri (plus 7½) at No. 14 Nebraska — It’s early, but this game should decide Big 12 North winner ... NEBRASKA 28-17.
No. 8 Utah (minus 7) at Air Force — Utes have won three of four vs. Falcons, games are usually close ... UTAH 27-21.
No. 10 Ohio State (minus 25½) at Minnesota — bThis season can’t end fast enough for Gophers ... OHIO STATE 45-13.
Colorado (plus 23) at No. 11 Oklahoma — Sooners have been outscored 67-30 in fourth quarter ... OKLAHOMA 48-14.
No. 13 Stanford (minus 7½) at Washington — Cardinal will pound Huskies’ weak run defense ... STANFORD 37-24.
No. 15 Arizona (minus 8½) at UCLA — Suspensions and injuries are cutting Bruins to shreds ... ARIZONA 28-17.
Tennessee (off) at No. 17 South Carolina — This rivalry is no fun when Steve Spurrier isn’t teasing the Vols coach ... SOUTH CAROLINA 38-14.
Vanderbilt (plus 20) at No. 19 Arkansas — Vandy won last trip to Fayetteville in 2005 ... ARKANSAS 45-13.
No. 20 Oklahoma State (minus 5½) at Kansas State — Cowboys WR Justin Blackmon suspended for Saturday’s game after arrest ... KANSAS STATE 40-35.
No. 22 Miami (minus 14½) at Virginia — Damien Berry has four straight 100-yard rushing games for Hurricanes ... MIAMI 34-14.
Kentucky (plus 6½) at No. 23 Mississippi State — Road team has won four straight meetings between Wildcats and Bulldogs ... MISSISSIPPI ST 28-20.
No. 25 Baylor (plus 7) at Texas —First-place Bears against struggling Longhorns in bizzaro Big 12 matchup ... TEXAS 38-28.
Last week — 14-5 (straight); 6-12 (vs. points).
Season — 122-33 (straight); 70-70-3 (vs. points).
Best bets — 2-2. Upset specials: 2-2.