Question of the week: Oregon or Cal?
It’s apparent that USC will begin the 2009 campaign as a top 5 program. The consensus will also project the Trojans to win their 8th consecutive Pac 10 title. But the reloading process may leave the program vulnerable in some areas, making a conference championship and national title run difficult. There’s the highly anticipated road game against Ohio State in September, and an October visit to South Bend. But the greater road worries may be found in conference, appearing as Oregon and Cal.
These programs are the top choices to contend in Pac 10, with sources naming at least one of the two to knock the Trojans from their pedestal. But how great are the threats, and which program is more worrisome? Last year, Oregon State leaped from obscurity to nearly claim the crown, but they’re now met with little expectation for 2009. History has proven that the conference will not go without challenge, so tell me who this year’s heavy hitter might be.
Is it Oregon or Cal that poses the greatest threat to end USC’s 7-years of Pac 10 dominance?
Oregon– Jeremiah Mosoli is the most underrated dual-threat quarterback in the country. His poorest output in 2008 came against a talented USC defense that allowed the Ducks only 10 points. But Oregon blistered the majority of their opponents, including a strong finish that produced point totals of 55, 65, and 42, to end the season against Arizona, Oregon State, and Oklahoma State. LeGarrette Blount is listed as one of the top 5 running backs in the nation, averaging 7.3 yards a carry a year ago, with the 240 pound punisher scoring 17 times.
The offense is the obvious strength of the program, and will face a USC defense with less experience in 2009. Also, consider the venue. Autzen stadium presents a definite homefield advantage, with the Trojans losing four of the last seven games played in Eugene, including a 24-17 defeat in 2007.
California– Jeff Tedford has spent the last 5 years searching for a repeat of Cal’s upset victory over USC in 2003. In 2007, the Trojans escaped a downpour and the Bears, leaving Berkley with a 7-point victory. They will return this year to face Heisman Trophy contender Jahvid Best, who may arguably be the best running back in the country.
But unlike Oregon, the Cal concern is their defensive presence. This is a Bears team that limited Mark Sanchez and the Trojans to just 17 points a year ago, and will return 8 starters, which includes the entire defensive line and secondary.