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Trojans battle to protect their own turf
By Todd Harris
Special to

LOS ANGELES -- It is a fact of nature that Ducks fly south for the winter season. However, when the Oregon Ducks fly into Southern California for Saturday's game with USC (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), the Trojans will not be thinking about the impending winter solstice, but the fact that their football season hangs in the balance.

This is the tale of two teams seemingly headed in two separate directions. The 12th-ranked Ducks may be the hottest team in the Pac-10. With wins over UCLA and Washington at home, they seem to have their coordinates set for a winter in Pasadena -- at least on the first day of January.

Zeke Moreno
Zeke Moreno and the Trojans defense have allowed 31 points in each of the last two games.
On the other hand, the Trojans appear to be in a flat spin and heading out to sea, issuing a mayday call for the season to end sooner than later. Herein lies the mystery for Saturday's game at the Coliseum.

The Ducks are on an 18-game winning streak at home, but remember, the Ducks are leaving their nest at Autzen Stadium and flying south. Meanwhile, the Trojans have yet to figure out how good they really are. Believe me folks, they have all the talent in the world, but their toughest opponent this year has been themselves. If the Trojans bring their A-game, the Ducks could be grounded at the Coliseum. Quarterback Carson Palmer needs to realize that he doesn't have to do it all. The rest of the team just needs to complete their assignments on the field and all will be well in Troy.

The Ducks can take full control of the Pac-10 race for the roses by taking care of business in L.A. The only possible edge to the Trojans could be at the wideout position. With the speed of Kareem Kelly on the outside, USC could cause havoc in the Duck secondary. The Ducks have heard this before and in the past have risen to the occasion -- just ask UCLA and Washington.

Bottom line: USC is in a must win situation. A loss and the Trojans will spend the winter possibly watching these same Ducks invade the southland. A Ducks win and come Jan. 1, the Pasadena area may be inundated with green and yellow and the always terrifying battle cry of "QUACK."

A Duck loss makes the conference race that much more confusing.

Saturday's contest should be a good one, but as we've learned this season in the every-changing world of the Pac-10, there's a new all-important game each week along with a new conference frontrunner.

Todd Harris is a sideline reporter for ABC's Pac-10 games and is a frequent contributor to

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