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Oregon matchup regains significance

October 26, 2009|Gary Klein

Before the season, USC's game at Oregon on Saturday looked like it could be the matchup of the year in the Pacific 10 Conference.

The luster faded when Oregon lost its season opener to Boise State. It all but disappeared after USC fell at Washington on Sept. 19.

Six weeks later, the Trojans and Ducks are back in the national spotlight with a marquee matchup that will have Pac-10 title implications and possibly more.

Oregon (6-1) leads the Pac-10 with a 4-0 record. USC (6-1), which has won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles, is 3-1 in conference play after Saturday's 42-36 victory over Oregon State.

USC on Sunday moved up two spots to fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings and Oregon jumped a spot to 10th.

"They've really come around," USC Coach Pete Carroll said of the Ducks on Sunday night. "They've been pretty dominant. They've got to be feeling good."

One thing is certain: the usually raucous crowd at Autzen Stadium figures to be even more so for a Halloween night kickoff.

"The whole atmosphere is going to be crazy," USC safety Taylor Mays said after Saturday night's win.

Carroll agreed.

"They'll be at their best, at their max," Carroll said of the crowd. "It will be quite an array of colors; green, yellow, orange and black."

USC has not won in the state of Oregon since 2005, when it overcame a 13-0 deficit to beat the Ducks, 45-13.

Since then, USC's Oregon trail includes a 2006 loss at Oregon State that ended with a tipped two-point conversion pass, a 2007 loss at Oregon in Mark Sanchez's third career start and last season's upset loss at Oregon State.

Oregon is coming off a 43-19 victory at Washington.

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli came back from a knee injury and rushed for two touchdowns against the Huskies, 16-13 winners over USC.

Running back LaMichael James, who rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, has carried the load in the absence of LeGarrette Blount, who was suspended after the Boise State game.

James has rushed for at least 152 yards three times.

"This is a totally different game coming at us," Carroll said.

The Trojans welcome the change.

USC's defense as of late has looked nothing like the mostly dominant unit that carried the Trojans in the first five games.

After holding off Notre Dame for a 34-27 victory two weeks ago, Oregon State pushed the Trojans to the limit.

The Beavers' 36 points were the most given up by the Trojans at the Coliseum since 2005, when USC survived Fresno State for a 50-42 victory.

Carroll acknowledged reason for concern.

"We don't want them to control the ball throwing it, that's certainly what happened in the second half of the last two games," he said.

Carroll compared the Ducks' style to what the Trojans expected from Ohio State.

"We have to shift gears and try to get ready for it," he said.

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Quick hits

Anthony McCoy suffered an ankle sprain, though not a high sprain that typically sidelines players for several weeks, according to Carroll said. Joe McKnight suffered a cut on his hand. . . . Butch Lewis, who started at left guard, played an outstanding game, Carroll said. Lewis started because Jeff Byers moved to center to start in place of Kristofer O'Dowd.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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