Oct 4, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) is interviewed by ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Steele after the game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. USC defeated Utah 38-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Ducks Roundtable: Is USC biggest threat left?

The level of challenge has certainly rose from the extremely weak non-conference schedule – except Fresno State who’s playing well this season at 4-2 – but the difference in scoring output hasn’t changed. In fact, the margin of victory has gotten better since Oregon started up their Pac-12 slate.

Right now, the Ducks are outscoring their conference foes by 35 points a game. Yes, Arizona isn’t as great as we thought at 0-3 in the conference and giving up 141 total points. Washington State’s running offense could be stopped by a middle school squad. But Washington looked like all the rest of them, and that’s the key – Oregon remains consistent week in, week out. And now with conference play, they’ve fixed their bad second halves.

As we look into the schedule, we’ve learned this conference is deep. You can’t take Colorado for granted (they will likely play the best they can, at least), and California may have figured things out against UCLA last Saturday. Right now, which team does our staff believe will give the Ducks their toughest test before the conference title game? Is it still USC, or does someone else emerge?

Ricky: USC – they are the only ones who have a chance at defeating the Ducks this season. Like I said in past roundtables, I believe USC and Oregon will play for the Pac-12 Championship. They are clearly the top two in the Pac-12 this year.

Raymond: The biggest upcoming threat is going to be USC for sure. With the loss of Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, the USC game should be the most difficult road game Oregon plays the rest of the year.  Both teams should be in the top ten at that point and has the potential to be the best college game of the season.

Joe: It has to be USC. The Trojans are the most talented team and best team in the conference aside from Oregon. They had the Ducks’ number last season, and what worries me the most about USC isn’t Matt Barkley or their receivers. It’s their running game. With the duo of Curtis McNeal and Silas Redd, USC has one of the best running back combos in the nation, and it’s something that can really bite Oregon. USC will be high up in the rankings by then, and I’m much more confident in beating the Beavers than I am in beating the Trojans. USC consistently gives Oregon fits, and it’s just a much more difficult matchup for the Ducks to contend with.

Mike: So many options to choose from with the Ducks upcoming schedule…is it next Thursday in Tempe? In Los Angeles at the Coliseum? At Cal? Hosting Stanford or maybe the Civil War in Corvallis? I felt it would be the game at Southern Cal at the beginning of the season and I’m sticking to that. The Trojans want that game and it will probably be the center of college football on November 3rd. Oregon also probably has that game circled given what happened in Eugene last season. Runner-up is that game in Berkeley the next week which looks like a trap game.

The Autzen Zoo staff includes lead editor Brian Spaen along with staff writers Joe Soriano, Mike Vamosi, Raymond Mencke, Jr., and Ricky Widmer.

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