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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 6, 2014 at 10:02 PM

Oregon, USC the day’s big winners, and say g’ night, Big Ten

In the biggest early-season Saturday card I can recall for the Pac-12, the day belonged to Oregon and USC. The Ducks roared back from a 27-18 deficit late in the third quarter to outflank Michigan State, 46-27, and USC made two killer plays down the stretch — the first a 53-yard field goal by Andre Heidari — to put down Stanford, 13-10.

Now Oregon will be in the spotlight as a major contender for the national playoff, not that it wasn’t already. But there was a horde of national media in Eugene for the comeback against the Spartans, so the Ducks aren’t going to lack for publicity.

Oregon next hosts Wyoming, goes to WSU and hosts Arizona before a key visit to UCLA Oct. 11.

USC’s win is a significant breakthrough in the conference for the Trojans, because they don’t face either Oregon or Washington this year. The Trojans are next at Boston College, then host Oregon State and Arizona State before a road test at Arizona. Then it appears to get a lot easier for them until the regular season winds down.

As for the Big Ten, it appears you can virtually write the league out of the national playoff. I thought Michigan State might stand a chance going forward if it lost a close one to Oregon, but it didn’t happen that way. And the league had a sorry Saturday, following a mediocre opening weekend, and there doesn’t appear any way out for the B1G. This was a day when the league’s best lost by 19 to Oregon, when Ohio State was exposed by Virginia Tech, and when Michigan was blown away by Notre Dame.

That doesn’t mean the Pac-12 is locked into the playoff. You may have heard of the SEC, which could land two teams in the playoff. But it surely seems as if the Big Ten is a casualty in this competition, and it’s only Sept. 6.

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