USC receiver Marqise Lee makes a 57-yard catch from Matt Barkley in front… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
This was supposed to be a game with Bowl Championship Series title implications for both teams. But only No. 2 Oregon remains a contender heading into Saturday's Pac-12 Conference game at the Coliseum. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the matchups and story lines:
Fans are advised not to leave their stadium seats or couches at home regardless of which team has the ball. Because there is a high probability of missing a spectacular play.
After amassing 469 all-purpose yards against Arizona, USC's Marqise Lee vaulted into third place in one weekly poll of Heisman Trophy voters. The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore has 10 touchdown catches and returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Meantime, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas covered well over 100 yards while going backward, sideways and straight up the sideline while returning a punt 73 yards for a touchdown against Colorado. The 5-9, 176-pound former Crenshaw High star also has rushed for seven touchdowns and caught three touchdown passes.
"Very different bodies," USC Coach Lane Kiffin said, "but very similar players ... in a lot of ways."
Old and new
Senior Matt Barkley has broken Pac-12 and USC passing records in each of the last two games, but Oregon's Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman, might have more momentum.
Barkley has passed for 25 touchdowns with eight interceptions, including two last week in a loss at Arizona.
Lee and Robert Woods are Barkley's main targets, but four of tight end Xavier Grimble's 15 catches have gone for touchdowns.
Mariota might run better than former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli and appears on track to equal or surpass Darron Thomas as a passer. Mariota has passed for 18 touchdowns with five interceptions. He has rushed for three touchdowns and also caught a touchdown pass.
De'Anthony Thomas has a team-high 24 catches, one of seven players with 11 or more. Tight end Colt Lyerla has 12 receptions, four for touchdowns.
Backfield in motion
Will Kenjon Barner ever enjoy a starring role?
For two seasons, the Oregon senior operated in the shadow of LaMichael James. Now, Thomas moves the buzz meter.
Meantime, Barner just keeps producing. He has averaged 121.8 yards rushing per game and has scored 15 touchdowns.
USC needs a productive, turnover-free game from tailbacks Silas Redd, Curtis McNeal and D.J. Morgan, who must avoid fumbles that have recently plagued the Trojans.
Defending their turf
USC outside linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard showed last season against Oregon they could cut off angles and tackle in space. But Mariota's mobility could make it especially tough on the Trojans' back seven.
USC got no sacks against elusive Arizona quarterback Matt Scott, so they're in for a challenge against Mariota.
Oregon's defense ranks 35th, but that might be misleadingly low.
The Ducks have given up much of their yardage in the second half, long after outcomes have been decided. Consider: Oregon has outscored opponents 162-26 in the first quarter, 128-30 in the second.
Ends Dion Jordan and Taylor Hart each have five sacks. Safety Avery Patterson has intercepted three passes.
Spread it out
Oregon is an 8 1/2-point favorite over the Trojans.
Stanford was a 7 1/2-point favorite over the Trojans last season at the Coliseum. USC lost in triple overtime, 56-48.
Last season at Eugene, USC kicker Andre Heidari's third-quarter field goal — and Oregon kicker Alejandro Maldonado's miss as time expired — proved to be the difference in the Trojans' 38-35 victory.
Heidari has made six of nine field-goal attempts, but did not have an attempt against Arizona. Punter Kyle Negrete has averaged 44.3 yards per kick.
Lee has averaged 28.4 yards per kickoff return, Nickell Robey 9.5 per punt return.
Oregon's Rob Beard has made four of seven field-goal attempts, but has not had an opportunity in the last two games. Jackson Rice has averaged 37.7 yards per punt.
Keanon Lowe has averaged 18.2 yards per kickoff return, Thomas 14.7. Thomas averages 18.3 yards per punt return.