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SPORTS WEEKEND | WEEK 8 PRIMER / THE LOCALS

October 23, 1998|ROBYN NORWOOD

USC (5-2, 3-1) at No. 12 Oregon (5-1, 2-1)

* Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Eugene, Channel 9.

* Story line: The loser can't even fantasize about the Rose Bowl, with two losses in the Pacific 10 Conference. USC would love to upend Oregon's high-powered offense, and the Trojans are hoping the Ducks' loss to UCLA and the injury to tailback Reuben Droughns have left Oregon in the dumps.

* USC update: Complain about the offense all you will, but putting points on the board isn't as much of a problem for USC as moving the football consistently. The Trojans score more than 31 points a game, with a little help from special teams and defense. If the defense can keep Oregon under 35--a couple of touchdowns below its average--it could be interesting.

* Oregon update: It's a test of the Ducks' resolve after a wrenching 41-38 overtime loss to UCLA last week in a game Oregon had chances to win. What's more, Oregon is without Droughns--as well as backup tailbacks Herman Ho-Ching and Kevin Parker--because of injury. Quarterback Akili Smith is a threat to pass or run, and running backs Derien Latimer, Jason Cooper and Jerry Brown are left to pick up the slack.

* Edge to Oregon: Even with Droughns out, Smith's versatility figures to make make USC pay for its mistakes. The Trojans' best hope is to contain him, and that's easier said than done.

* Line: Oregon by 7.

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