USC used to be the one school west of the Rockies that could consistently field teams with SEC-caliber talent. Saturday might tell us how far back they've come.
The past two teams to beat Oregon, Auburn and LSU, did so largely by winning the one-on-one battles up front and by stuffing the Ducks' option plays before they got going. Against Auburn in the national-championship game last year, the Ducks ran for just 75 yards. Against LSU in the season opener, they managed just 95 on the ground.
In its nine games since, Oregon has averaged 313 yards rushing and blown out every opponent it has faced.
How much of a lesson is all that heading into Saturday's showdown at Autzen Stadium? USC coach Lane Kiffin thinks you can only take it so far, saying LSU's defense might be the best in college football history.
"You're talking about not just a good defense this year, a great defense of all time," Kiffin said. "Nothing against our defense, but you can't compare anybody to that."
USC's front seven is young and rapidly improving. The Trojans rank eighth nationally against the run, having allowed an average of 100 yards rushing per game. The emphases in practice this week have been conditioning, tackling and penetration.
"We’ve just got to compete and get there, stop the run and everything will work out," said USC defensive end Nick Perry.
And yeah, they watched the film of those two Oregon games against the SEC.
"They had the right game plan: Get some big guys up front, win your one-on-ones and, when they got out in space on you, the first guy made the tackle," defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron said. "I think that’s really critical."