Don't forget about Oregon

De'Anthony Thomas (left) and the Ducks could edge out USC as the Pac-12's best this season. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks have won the Pac-10/12 title in each of the past three seasons, but with the return of USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley and Oregon losing starting quarterback Darron Thomas and star running back LaMichael James to the NFL draft, the perception of which team is worthy of the title of Pac-12 leader has been completely turned around.

For proof, consider that USC had a commanding 33 percent to 7 percent lead over Oregon in a recent SportsNation poll asking which team was the leading candidate for the 2012 national championship. Even worse for Oregon, 24 percent of voters in a January SportsNation poll said the Ducks were not Pac-12 contenders.

That perception gap is far from on the money, however, as a closer look at this situation reveals seven reasons Oregon should be considered every bit the Pac-12 and national championship contender USC is.