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Transition of power in Pac-10

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 27 2010 5:58 p.m. MDT

The transition of power in the Pac-10 from Southern California to Oregon started in 2007, reached a major milestone last year and could be complete by the end this season.

The next step for the top-ranked Ducks comes Saturday, when they try to win on USC's turf for the first time since 2000. That was before Pete Carroll led the Trojans on the most dominant run in the history of Pac-10 football.

USC won seven straight conference titles from 2002-2008. The Ducks did manage to beat the Trojans in '07 and appeared poised to win the conference, but an injury to Dennis Dixon thwarted those chances and USC again went to the Rose Bowl.

In 2008, the Trojans pounded Oregon 44-10 in Los Angeles and it seemed as if USC might just rule the Pac-10 forever.

That was before USC went to Eugene last year and coach Chip Kelly's Ducks handed the Trojans what at that point was the worst beating of the Carroll era.

Oregon zipped past USC for 613 yards, 319 on the ground, and beat the Trojans 47-20.

From there, the Ducks soared to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans tumbled to an 8-4 season and Carroll left when it was done.

Oregon continues to climb. Two weeks ago, the Ducks rose to No. 1 in the AP poll for the first time. They are also second in the BCS standings. Keep winning and Oregon will likely play in the BCS national championship game.

Under coach Lane Kiffin, USC (5-2) is no longer a national title threat. The Trojans have lost twice on last-second field goals and, while their offense is still explosive, USC's defense ranks 87th in the nation.

How much has the hierarchy of the Pac-10 changed in the last year? Oregon is a touchdown favorite in the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC hasn't been an underdog at home since 2001 against UCLA, according to oddsmaker RJ Bell of Pregame.com. The Trojans haven't been underdogs of seven points or more at the Coliseum since 1997 against UCLA.

The Trojans can't go to a bowl this season as they dig out from NCAA sanctions, so this is their Rose Bowl.

For the Ducks, this might be the toughest hurdle standing between them and a trip to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 10 title game.

"USC is the most talented team in our league, by far," Kelly said.

USC's Matt Barkley is the highest-rated passer in the Pac-10, the Trojans are averaging more than 200 yards on the ground and their offense just might be able to keep up with Heisman trophy contender LaMichael James and the high-speed Ducks.

And remember, conference road games have undone Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma the last three weeks.

Or Oregon could squash USC again, showing the Trojan dynasty is truly dead.

The picks:

THURSDAY

No. 16 Florida State (minus 3½) at N.C. State

Teams combined for 1,093 yards in 45-42 FSU win last year ... FLORIDA STATE 38-24.

SATURDAY

UPSET SPECIAL

No. 1 Oregon (minus 7) at No. 24 Southern California

Trojans last stand ... USC 48-42.

No. 3 Auburn (minus 7) at Mississippi

Nine straight years, Tigers have won game that follows LSU game ... AUBURN 35-30.

No. 4 TCU (minus 35) at UNLV

Horned Frogs have allowed 10 points in last four games ... TCU 48-6.

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