USC's upset chances are quite slim

Everyone seems to think Darron Thomas & Co. will be in a tight one Saturday night. Expect a score closer to 2009's 47-20 result. Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks are to today's college football world what former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes was to his sport in the 1970s and 1980s.

Holmes posted a 69-6 career record and held the title for nearly seven-and-a-half years -- yet never received anywhere near the respect he deserved as a dominant champion. The reason was simple: He had the bad luck to follow Muhammad Ali as the top heavyweight. No one could compare with The Greatest.

Oregon is in the same boat. The Ducks are taking over as the top team in a conference that was dominated by Pete Carroll's USC Trojans, one of the elite programs in recent college football history. Even though they are ranked No. 1 in both major polls and in the ESPN.com Power Rankings, those honors are a stark contrast to the many thinly disguised knocks this team receives.