After an 8-0 start to the 2012 college football season, Oregon's schedule is decidedly more difficult the rest of the way.
The Ducks have passed every test thus far, but they have yet to face the toughest teams on their schedule, and that changes starting Saturday.
Second-ranked Oregon travels to Los Angeles to take on No. 18 USC, a team that's stumbled to two losses since opening the season ranked No. 1, but a team that looks dangerous nonetheless, particularly at home.
While the Trojans will be looking to right the ship after Saturday's 39-36 loss at Arizona, the Ducks will be looking to remain in the national title hunt, and they can ill afford any slip-ups at this point.
Despite Florida's loss over the weekend, Oregon remained in fourth place in the BCS standings, with Kansas State moving up a spot to No. 2 and Notre Dame jumping the Ducks into third. Some analysts still think Oregon controls its own destiny in terms of reaching the BCS National Championship Game, since its remaining schedule is much more difficult than those of the Wildcats and Fighting Irish.
After the Trojans -- No. 17 in the BCS standings -- Oregon plays at Cal, then faces 15th-ranked Stanford (No. 14 in the BCS) followed by No. 13 Oregon State (11th in the BCS). There would also be a potential Pac-12 Conference championship game for the Ducks at the end of all that.
With Notre Dame beating Oklahoma, and USC losing to Arizona, the Ducks' road to the title game appeared to get quite a bit tougher on Saturday. As if it wasn't tough enough, with the schedule that remains.
But there's still more than a month of football left in 2012 before bowl-game situations are settled, so first things first -- Oregon has to get past a USC team that will likely come into Saturday's game with a chip on its shoulder after losing to the Wildcats.
The Trojans edged the Ducks by a field goal in 2011, one of just two losses for Oregon on its way to a Rose Bowl title. Some of the shine might have been taken off this year's matchup between the two teams, after USC's losses to Stanford and Arizona, but the Trojans are still loaded with playmakers and capable of giving the Ducks fits.
Oregon's starters should be plenty rested coming in, having played less than a full half in last weekend's 70-14 win over Colorado. The Ducks' days of playing only backups in the second half could be limited the rest of the way this season, as things start getting a lot more difficult, beginning Saturday in L.A.
Sources:BCS standings - October 28, 2012 Football rankings - Week 10
Adam Sparks has been following Oregon Ducks football since 1990, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.