Duck Soup

The folks in Eugene advertise what they have to serve up as a spicy broth, a medley of many things bright green and yellow, but it will take a heavy dose of Trojans to add the meat that will turn this Saturday's Duck Soup a meal.

The Trojans have faced one-dimensional offenses - pass-happy Hawaii, followed by the ground hogs of Arkansas. So, this certainly looks like a trap on the schedule -- a game on the road in a tough house against a very good Pac-10, nationally ranked rival that has beaten USC before and will not tremble in fear when the Trojans take the field.

To almost make this broth stout, Oregon adds a spicy new spread-option offense to the mix. The scheme is all the rave nationally and has been a good fit with Oregon, scoring at least 37 points in each game, averaging 40.7.

40.7 could almost make a man quack. That's no simple task to stop, especially when a few years back, when some kid named Leinart took the reigns for the USC offense, most Trojan fans fell back on an old adage to ease their worried minds: "Defense wins championships." Trojans across the land repeated this mantra all the way to a win against Michigan, at the Rosebowl and a share of the National title.

So what's a Trojan to do – I guess what they managed to do thru two games this year - score 66.5 points, because that's 26 more than the Ducks' best day. Then follow that up with a confession to the college football world… "We were wrong. Offense, damned great offense, wins football games." Now, keep saying it all the way to the Rosebowl, with a victory over "whoever's next," and a third National Championship.

I don't mean to be so cavalier about it all, but if I tried to pimp this out as some super match, between warring rivals, simply because "Oregon's a tough place to play," or "This is the first multi-dimensional team USC has faced," I'd be lying.

And that's where my trouble begins: I'm already looking passed Oregon. One can only hope the USC Trojans are not following my lead. My hunch is Pete Carroll won't let that happen.

I've always felt that Pete Carroll is USC's secret weapon. It's not the players as much as it is the system – Pete's system. Let me repeat, after watching these first two Trojan football games – Pete's system.

My conviction to this ideal is evidenced by the constant turnover in personnel and coaches, matched with the ongoing success. Up until this last week I thought Pete Carroll was perfect. Then, he got me. He went Holtzian on my ass. Yes, he trumped the Pied Piper of puffery of one's opponents, Lou Holtz, and found legitimate reasons for his USC Trojans to get fired up to play the Ducks. He pointed out "The Ducks are lead by a heck of a quarterback and are coached by a man who's been doing this for a long time. Their offense will be the best we have seen in a long time and I'm challenging my young players to step up and show us the reason why we brought them to USC." He followed that with footage of the last six games, where the Ducks hold the win/loss advantage, and I have to believe – that's all it took. His boys were ready. And just in case they forget, Autzen stadium, filled with that spicy soup of Duck fans, will quickly remind them. Ironically, I think word of this motivational effort got leaked to the Ducks, when earlier this week, Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti told the press: "I don't know if there is a perfect college football team, but they come close."

And to think, I used to really dislike Coach Bellotti – especially when he used USC to get he and his staff raises by telling the world he'd been offered the head coaching job at Troy. We all know Dennis Erickson, the man who stole Bellotti's thunder, was the only coach from the Pacific Northwest to get that call. I forgive the old coach, who's lost a lot of his magic since then, what with the departure of his offensive guru, Jeff Tedford coupled with the rise of the other guy who did get the call, Pete Carroll.

So, letting bygones be bygones, and no axe to grind, I hit the trail for Oregon with Trojan brethren, firm in the belief that "offense, damned great offense, wins football games." It's a mantra that defensive coordinators Glanville and Herring are still chanting, even in their sleep and one that Nick Aliotti will soon be repeating over and over with them, me and a whole nation of Trojans, all the way to the Rosebowl and that never before attained, third, consecutive National Championship.

Aliotti already seems to get it: "This is the best offensive team I've ever seen," Aliotti said. Bellotti would chime in, but he's too busy wetting down the field.

Bye the bye, the field is no longer an advantage as the Trojans have installed their own Field Turf to practice on and have already played a game on the treacherous stuff. The only thing it might do is speed up the nation's fastest team.

Aliotti's assessment is, unfortunately for him, point on. The two-time defending national champion Trojans have scored 188 points in their last three games, dating to last season's 55-19 win over Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series title game. Quarterback Matt Leinart (jersey No. 11) won the Heisman Trophy last season. Running back Reggie Bush (No. 5) is a Heisman candidate and considered the most dangerous open-field runner in the county. Backfield mate LenDale White (No. 21) scored 15 rushing touchdowns last season. And wide receivers Dwayne Jarrett (No. 8) and Steve Smith (No. 2) are considered by many to be the nation's best pass-catching duo.

The Trojans listed above are just the beginning – the meat to the broth that will make this one delicious Duck Soup. And the 21-point spread will hardly get it done. Just ask Reggie Herring, Arkansas' Defensive Coordinator after the Trojans' put up 70 points and 736 yards against his Hogs... "They're the best team I've ever seen. They need to hurry up and graduate, because if they don't, they're going to ruin college football."

Coach, soup's on. USC 63 UO 31


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