It's a long ways away, but it's time for you to pencil in November 3rd on your calendar if you're a college football fan.
No, no, not because LSU and Alabama are getting ready for Battle of Baton Rouge or whatever they'll call that one. Alabama loses half their team and will be notably inferior in this incarnation compared to the last one. The Tigers should roll that contest without trouble.
This date is important for Pac-12 purposes, because you could potentially see an undefeated Oregon Ducks squad take on an undefeated USC Trojans squad in what could turn into a BCS title play-in game. And then they'll almost certainly face off against each other once again in the Pac-12 championship game. It won't be quite the same as the unholy LSU-Alabama SEC exhibition contested last night, as there's almost zero chance of a title rematch with both teams on opposite sides of the Pac-12. But the idea of these two teams playing twice could lead to some titanic clashes the final month of the season in the conference.
There are certainly some questions both teams will have to deal with this offseason, but both Oregon and USC seem to look like the clear favorites to win the conference next year.
Oregon is clearly the team with more question marks, as they lose LaMichael James, tight end David Paulson, and both offensive tackles Mark Asper and Darrion Weems on offense, and five starters on the defensive side of the ball (although their depth chart is littered with young talent). USC loses talented juniors in left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry and are likely to lose other players to attrition. However, both teams return their starting quarterbacks in Darron Thomas and Matt Barkley, and both retain two of the brightest offensive minds in the conference in Chip Kelly and Lane Kiffin, and they'll each have two defensive deans in Nick Aliotti and Monte Kiffin.
It's not likely any other team will be considered a threat at this point to challenge for conference bragging rights. Stanford (the third team in this triumvirate) is likely down Andrew Luck and more of their best offensive linemen. Washington loses Chris Polk and has a horrifying defense to try and patch up. Cal has quarterback issues again. Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA are all breaking in new coaches. Utah definitely will give USC a run for their money, but they're nowhere near competing. And Colorado and Oregon State got some catching up to do.
For right now, the day after the national championship where defense ruled the day, it's the offenses of Oregon and USC that figure to take center stage in the Pac-12 in 2012. Both teams aren't likely to lock anyone down, but they have the points and the system in place to score with anyone, and that's more than LSU could say last night. And I think a lot of the nation will be rooting for either one of those two to step up and get back to the title game after the snoozefest we dealt with in New Orleans.
Perhaps it's time for USC and Oregon to give the nation the opposite of what they got last night. Offensive fireworks to determine who ends up in a title game next January in Miami. Seems only fitting after this year ended with a thud.