LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Saturday has been circled on the calendar for Trojan and Duck fans long before the 2012 season even kicked off. Preseason favorites to represent the Pac-12 in the national title game, it was supposed to be the hottest ticket in Los Angeles as USC hosts No. 2 Oregon. But now the stakes are quite what they used to be.
After suffering its second loss of the season, this time on the road at Arizona, USC is down to No. 17 in the BCS standings and No. 18 in the AP Poll.
Gone for the Trojans is any hope of a BCS National Championship and a trip to New York for a Heisman ceremony at the end of the season seems far off for any player from Troy. So what does that mean for “unfinished business?”
For now, it means just getting back to work and preparing for the undefeated Ducks.
“We all know we screwed up last week,” said Coach Lane Kiffin. “We should've won the game. We're moving forward, and it's good to have a game like this. It's good to have a game to be a big game with a national ranked opponent like this, so you don't sit around and keep looking backwards.”
“I really think that both games we’ve lost, we’ve killed ourselves,” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “We can’t play a game like that this week, Oregon is too good. We have to be disciplined and play good football.”
“I wouldn’t say we’re going nowhere,” said receiver Robert Woods. “We’re still going forward, we’ve got a new opponent, so we’re just pushing forward.”
The Trojans didn’t get away with giving up over 100 yards in penalties at Arizona and they certainly don’t expect to win against Oregon if they play that undisciplined again.
Kiffin is nearly out of ideas on how to get his guys to stop drawing flags. His last plea to his players this week was to put together a “highlight” reel of every penalty this season, showing his team exactly what each one has cost.
“It was pretty quiet,” Woods said of the meeting room when Kiffin played the film, “sitting there, watching all the dumb mistakes, and all the situations we were in at the time.”
“Just little things that really hurt the team,” Barkley explained. “We were playing good football, we really were. We were moving the ball, making plays – on both sides of the ball, but at crucial points you just shoot yourself in the foot so you realize those can’t happen if you want to win a big game.”
“It’s not a street fight. It’s a game and there are rules within it,” Kiffin said. “A lot of them have the mentality where they are trained to protect their brother and unfortunately that’s cost us in a lot of these situations, where we get retaliation off of something that happened to somebody else and like what usually happens in football, the second person gets caught.”
The Ducks come to the Coliseum as the top scoring team in the country. They put 70 on the board last weekend against Colorado and needless to say, the Trojans will also have their hands full trying to stop Kenjon Barner and company.
“Kenjon, if you go back to our game last year, Kenjon hurt us more than LaMichael did and definitely more than De’Anthony did,” Kiffin said. “De’Anthony, I don’t know, had two yards a carry or something like that, so Kenjon has done really well stepping in and taking those carries that LaMichael was getting.”
“Stopping the run, definitely,” explained safety Jawanza Starling of the priority of the Trojans’ defense. “Stopping the run will be key to winning the ballgame. We have to play disciplined and stay disciplined. They get a lot of big plays because somebody on the defense gets out of position or makes the wrong read.”
The last time the Ducks lost was 11 games ago, to then-No.18 USC in Eugene.
Though the BCS title game is further than a longshot, a win against Oregon will keep the Trojans in the hunt for a return trip to the Rose Bowl.
Kickoff Saturday is at 4pm PST. The game will be televised on FOX.
Kevin Carden contributed to this video.