USC is back and for the long haul

After restocking with two exceptional recruiting classes, Trojans' upset win at Oregon sets program up for great things next season and beyond.

EUGENE, Ore. – As USC players and coaches congregated in front of the small sliver of Autzen Stadium making noise, it was hard not to think of what should be and what is to come.

The Trojans and Ducks should be reconvening one week from Friday for the inaugural Pacific-12 Conference championship game, a thrilling winner-takes-all rematch of the 38-35 upset Saturday night.

The focus should be on the Rose Bowl, whether Oregon can solve quarterback Matt Barkley and his wide receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, whether USC can duplicate its impressive defensive effort that largely denied any explosive plays.

Instead, everyone is left waiting for 2012 and the next meeting of Lane Kiffin's sanction-proof Trojans and Chip Kelly's highflying Ducks. It already shapes up as the biggest game in the Pac-12 and a likely BCS championship semi-final.

Consider that USC could return 20 of its 22 starters from the team that stunned Oregon, ending too many streaks to name in the process.

Even if redshirt junior left tackle Matt Kalil enters the NFL draft, four of five starters on an offensive line that seems to grow by leaps and bounds would return.

Even if redshirt junior defensive end Nick Perry does the same, Devon Kennard and Wes Horton are solid contributors and assistant coach Ed Orgeron always seems to recruit and develop one standout pass rusher after another.

But the one decision that can and will make the difference between USC being a favorite in the Pac-12 and perhaps the preseason No. 1 team in college football is Barkley.

The junior has elevated his game to new heights, as demonstrated by his ridiculous 33 touchdowns against just seven interceptions with a sophomore and freshman as his two top receivers.

Barkley will have a chance to set every significant USC passing record, become a three-time captain, possibly win the Heisman Trophy and play on New Year's Day in the Rose Bowl or for the BCS title.

Even if Barkley does leave, his successor will have so many weapons around him to continue the Trojans' ascent.

What is clear is Kiffin is more than capable of restoring USC to glory, NCAA penalties be damned. His first two recruiting classes have been absolute smashes, with many more contributors set to join the likes of Woods, Lee, cornerback Nickell Robey and linebackers Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, already well established as the foundation stones of the program.

As Woods said, "SC is back. That's all I got to say. SC is back."

Veterans that saw the erosion of USC, the lingering uncertainty of the Reggie Bush investigation and the bowl ban first hand are even more certain.

"Hell yeah," redshirt senior running back Marc Tyler said. "We got young guys that got that fire and are ready to compete. The coaching staff is the best coaching staff in the country. We can go into anywhere and win."


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