With a reshuffled coaching staff, an exodus of defensive stars, and an NFL bound quarterback, one person already believes that USC has lost its grip on the Pac 10 conference. Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports doesn’t make a definite statement, appearing more as “beating around the bush”, but his early 2009 college football rankings show the Ducks positioned higher than the Trojans. The top of his early pick is similar to the final regular season rankings of 2008, with the exception of Southern Cal taking a plunge.
Dennis Dodd’s Early 2009 Top 25
5. Virginia Tech
7. Ohio State
9. Oklahoma State
Oregon finished the season strong, capped with a Holiday Bowl victory over Oklahoma State, but I’m still struggling to find reason for Dodd’s catapult above USC. The Ducks also have questions surrounding their coaching staff, with most speculating that Mike Bellotti is preparing to move into the athletic offices, leaving Chip Kelly to hold the reins. The top defensive playmakers, Jarius Byrd and Patrick Chung, have offered their services to the Sunday league, and joining them is their top runner (Jeremiah Johnson), top receiver (Jaison Williams), and two big bodies from the offensive line (Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou). Changes can easily affect both programs, but perhaps he is eyeing the Oregon schedule and change in venue.
Autzen Stadium will host 7 games in 2009. Inside that roaring sound machine, the home team will face Utah, Purdue, Cal, Arizona State, Oregon State, and USC. If they survive the schedule and list of style point opponents, I can see how they would finish in the top 10. They also have a road date with Boise State. But is that change of scenery enough to change the game result against mighty USC? Pete Carroll’s Trojans have lost only twice to Oregon. The first defeat came in 2001, during the miserable beginning of the coach's first year. The second occurred 2 years ago, with Mark Sanchez rushed into the line up for an injured John David Booty, and the banged up Trojans still came close to recording a win. It was Oregon’s second victory against USC in Autzen Stadium, as Carroll’s teams have overcome the noise and crowd ruckus to split 4 games played in this unfriendly pond.
Oregon at No. 6 and USC appearing 8th can only signify a one game difference between the two, which would be the head-to-head meeting in October. Dodd doesn’t say it, but he obviously has the Ducks defeating the Trojans on that day, and for the first time in 7 years, the Pac 10 crowning a new king in December.