Welcome back to the road trip. We're taking a week-by-week look at the entire Pac-12 schedule and picking out the game we feel is the marquee matchup of the week. If you have the time and means, this is the game you want to see.
By the way, just to clarify, this isn't only about picking the best game. There's also an effort to diversify the Pac-12 "road trip" experience. So far we've sent you on nonconference jaunts to BYU, LSU and Notre Dame -- three pretty cool road trips -- as well as jaunts to California, Utah, Washington, USC and Stanford. And no repeats ... until now.
Friday, Nov. 2
Washington at Cal
Saturday, Nov. 3
Arizona at UCLA
Arizona State at Oregon State
Oregon at USC
Stanford at Colorado
Washington State at Utah
My choice: Oregon at USC
Why? This is the big one; the one we've been debating in watering holes, flaming about on message boards and chances are Ted and I will have written several thousand blog posts about this game before it's played.
This will be the Pac-12's Alabama-LSU of 2011. The only difference is Pac-12 offenses can, ya know, actually play offense. If this game ends up 9-6 in overtime, I'll shave Ted's head.
The offensive playmakers will certainly be the talk of this game. On one side, Matt Barkley and his amazing, explosive cast of wide receivers. On the other, the prolific De'Anthony Thomas. Both will be in the midst of a Heisman push in front of a national audience.
But it's the defenses that could be the most intriguing element. Oregon boasts the best defense of the Chip Kelly era. USC -- if it can develop its defensive line by this week (and if you haven't by Week 10, there's a problem) -- should have the best defense of the Lane Kiffin era. At question is whether those defenses are good enough to slow down what the other brings on offense -- or at least give them enough pause to let their own offenses go to work.
It's going to be awesome. The chess match between coaches; the endless sound bites how this is just another game the days before; the one player who mouths off with bulletin board material (there is always one); and the buzz in the Coliseum moments before kickoff should be deafening.
Assuming both teams have made it to this week unscathed and unbeaten, the implications of this game are as significant as they are obvious. It's a revenge game for Oregon, which fell to the Trojans at home last season in a disappointing, failed-comeback fashion. It likely sets up the repeat showdown for the conference championship and there are the Heisman implications as well. Both teams should be ranked in the Top 4 -- and it's even possible both could be Nos. 1 and 2.
So take in what should be a pretty good Washington at Cal game on Friday night and then pile in the car and drive the six hours south to Los Angeles. And you might as well make a weekend of it by staying Sunday and watching the Rams, err, I mean the Raiders, err, uh. Hey, Universal Studios still rocks.
You can check out the rest of the road trip here.