Undefeated, top-ranked Oregon targets USC

Top-ranked Oregon took the weekend off after its Thursday night pounding of UCLA, although it didn’t seem like many of the Ducks were going to distance themselves too much from football.

EUGENE, Ore. — Top-ranked Oregon took the weekend off after its Thursday night pounding of UCLA, although it didn’t seem like many of the Ducks were going to distance themselves too much from football.

There was a sense of anticipation to get on with the rest of the season with just five games remaining and the stakes rising. The Ducks travel to Southern California this Saturday.

“It is our next game, so of course it is our biggest game of the season,” said Oregon tight end David Paulson. “USC has great athletes on both sides of the ball that we have to prepare for.”

The Ducks are always quick to mention that they’re unconcerned with the rankings, but for the record Oregon was No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday for the second week in a row.

In the BCS standings released later in the day, undefeated Auburn took over the top spot from Oklahoma, which was upset by Missouri. Oregon was No. 2, followed by Boise State.

“It’s a big thing, it’s exciting, we just have to show that we’re deserving of No. 1,” linebacker Casey Matthews said. “We just go out and play our normal game. That’s just how we treat it, ranking shouldn’t matter. The coaches do a great job of keeping our heads level.”

Oregon’s last “normal” game was a 60-13 rout of the Bruins. The Ducks certainly made the most of a national television audience, piling up a 32-3 lead before halftime.

Darron Thomas threw for a career-high 308 yards and three touchdowns for Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-10), while LaMichael James ran for 123 yards and two scores.

James, a quickly rising Heisman Trophy candidate, is the nation’s top rusher, averaging 161 yards a game.

“It doesn’t matter about No. 1, we don’t care what the outside world thinks of us being No. 1 or No. 2,” James said. “We just have to win.”

The Trojans (5-2, 2-2) had an open date this past weekend but nonetheless popped into the AP poll at No. 24 on the strength of their last victory, a 48-14 rout of California. The win snapped USC’s two-game losing streak, it’s first skid in nine years.

Matt Barkley passed for 352 yards and a school-record five touchdowns against the Golden Bears, earning the Pac-10 offensive player of the week honours.

Last season then-No. 10 Oregon defeated the No. 4 Trojans 47-20 at Autzen Stadium, a Halloween game that fans dubbed Fright Night. The Ducks rolled up 613 yards against USC for the Trojan’s worst loss since 1997.

Oregon went on to claim the Pac-10 championship, ending a seven-year run for the Trojans.

Reports out of Los Angeles were that Southern California was speeding up practices in preparation for the Ducks.

Oregon has the nation’s No. 1 offence, averaging 569.14 yards a game. The Ducks also top the BCS field with an average of 55.4 yards a game.

At the same time, Oregon ranks 114th when it comes to time of possession, with an average of just 26.28 minutes — meaning the Ducks are extremely efficient.

While the wins have progressively become more important to Oregon’s ultimate goal, Oregon coach Chip Kelly wasn’t putting any more emphasis on opponent No. 8 than he did on opponent No. 1 (New Mexico, by the way).

“Our formula is to take care of one game at a time,” he said.

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