Kenjon Barner and up-tempo Oregon fly by USC, dream matchup vs. Alabama on everyone's mind

Yahoo! Sports

LOS ANGELES – LaMichael James, who left Oregon as the best running back the school has ever seen, stood underneath the tunnel at the L.A. Coliseum and talked about the greatest offense he's ever seen.

And really, what else could he say? His former team, the second-ranked Oregon Ducks, had just dropped 62 points on USC (which scored 51 in a losing effort) in a game that should have Nick Saban's head spinning.

Yeah, we'll get to Saban in a moment.

But back to the Ducks, who showed Tinseltown why they're college football's version of George Clooney. On Saturday, they scored early – touchdown No. 1 came one minute, five seconds into the game – they scored often – five TDs by halftime – and they scored with ease – nine TDs total on 12 (not counting two that ended the halves) offensive possessions.

Five of those came from Kenjon Barner, who racked up 321 yards rushing (a school record) and still wasn't the Ducks’ offensive leader on the night. That award went to freshman Marcus Mariota, who threw for 304 yards and ran for 119 more.

In a nutshell, this is Oregon football: try to score on every single play and if they don't, line up as fast as they can so they can try again.

And this is why it's so enticing to root for Alabama vs. Oregon in what would be the juiciest season finale in years.

[Related: AJ McCarron, Alabama complete wild comeback past rival LSU]

It was just last month that Alabama coach Nick Saban cried foul over the hurry-up offense, saying that it doesn't allow defenses to line up, puts them at greater risk of injury and insinuated that it was ruining the game.

"I just think there's got to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking: is this what we want football to be?" he wondered aloud.

This bit of whine came after Saban's Crimson Tide beat up Ole Miss, a Pinto of an offense in comparison to Oregon's Ferrari.

Chip Kelly's full-throttle attack is a sight to behold. There's nothing flashy about it, other than it always seems to move forward. (Barner rushed the ball 38 times against USC; 36 of those went for positive yards.) They run stretch plays to the left, stretch plays to the right, their receivers block downfield really well, and just when you think they're going to run it again, boom, Mariota pops one over the top.

It's a double-barrel attack that can endure even 484 yards and five touchdowns from Matt Barkley.

USC had its chances to get back into the game after falling behind 21-3, rallying to make it 27-17 on a Barkley to Robert Woods touchdown midway through the second quarter. But with Oregon answering every Trojan touchdown with one of its own, it meant Barkley and Co. had to be perfect, which they weren't. He threw a pair of interceptions, including one in the end zone, and all-world wide receiver Marqise Lee's fumble deep inside Ducks' territory late in the second quarter proved to be hugely costly.

USC opened the second half with a touchdown to pull within three, only to see Oregon answer with one of its own five minutes later. That's how it went for the rest of the game: USC putting seven on the board, but unable to stop the Ducks, who ended the night with 730 yards of total offense.

The "We are SC" crowd is surely wondering now if Lane Kiffin is the future of the program, this after loss No. 3 in a season the Trojans entered ranked No. 1 in the polls. But really, what could Kiffin do? His offense slapped 51 points on the board and never had a chance.

The question now is, does anyone?

[Related: Kenjon Barner enters Heisman race with monster outing against USC]

Going into Saturday, the obvious answer was Alabama. But after struggling to hold back an LSU team whose offense is as explosive as a golf clap, it's clear the Tide are not the world-beaters we thought they were. (Somewhere, Steve Spurrier is chuckling about that.)

But if there is a team that can slow the Ducks, Alabama is it. And if there is a team that can slice through the stiff 'Bama defense, it's Oregon.

When asked if he would relish the chance to take their hurry-up attack against Alabama, Barner refused to take the bait.

"I'm not thinking about Nick Saban," he said. "I'm just focused on playing Oregon football."

That's what makes the prospect of Oregon vs. Alabama in the BCS title so intriguing.

Yes, there's still a long way to go between now and then, and Kansas State and Notre Dame are still in the championship picture. But this – Oregon vs. Alabama – is the dream matchup to end the 2012 season.

[Also: Notre Dame rallies, survives to beat Pittsburgh in triple-OT]

It would be strength vs. strength. Cardiac Kelly vs. Systematic Saban. West Coast flair vs. Southeastern tradition.

Simply, it would be the two best teams in college football playing in a championship game not even a four-team playoff could guarantee.

It'd be so perfect, it would almost make us forget how much we hate the BCS.


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