Conference Questions

What quarterback should start on Saturday for Oregon?

Darron Thomas, even if he allegedly smokes weed in speeding vehicles with Cliff Harris, is the recognized Oregon starting quarterback. He was the guy who led the team to the national title game last season and was one of the best performers against Auburn in the Ducks’ 15-13 loss.

Unfortunately, the dynamic but inaccurate Thomas has a talented backup nipping at his heels, and Bryan Bennett should start Saturday’s showdown against Washington.

Bennett is one of those guys who the coaching staff has probably known is this talented but didn’t want to usher in a controversy by playing him too early. Thomas is still a good enough manager of the offense to lead the Ducks to victories against pretty much all of their conference opponents, but Bennett has the clean release and tight spiral that Thomas does not. Bennett has yet to throw an interception in 45 attempts, while Thomas has been picked five times in 163 passes.

Speed would be Thomas’s biggest advantage, but Bennett has broken off big runs that prove he’s a capable dual threat.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

Is USC underrated?

Lane Kiffin left the Coliseum with his second loss this season last Saturday, but the coach proved that — on good days — his team could keep up with most teams in the country.

With sanctions still hanging over their heads, the Trojans are in their second postseasonless campaign. But as of late, USC has played as if a rosy end were still in sight.

The triple-overtime, 56-48 loss against Stanford was an instant classic, with both teams scoring at will on every possession. If tailback Curtis McNeal hadn’t fumbled away the game, it might have gone on forever — college football fans sure wouldn’t have minded.

Matt Barkley and Robert Woods can match any other quarterback-receiver in the country, and their last two games against the Cardinal and Notre Dame have vaulted them into a bigger spotlight. Whether or not the rest of the team can maintain consistency will be the question moving forward.

USC could potentially finish the season without another loss. Up next is Colorado, Washington and Oregon; the Trojans will benefit from hosting the Huskies, and the tilt in Eugene will function as a de facto championship game for them.

— Jack Wang