Now that the showdown has become a letdown, will the Trojans suffer a breakdown that leads to a Kiffin meltdown?

305716-doughboyIt was supposed to be The Game of the Century, but now it isn’t even the game of the week.

Preaseason, the SC Trojans were coronated resurgent, certain to be 8-0 and ranked one or two in the country for their epic confrontation with the upstart Oregon Ducks. The Men of Troy were destined to slash and pillage their way through the PAC-12, decimating opponents 70-14 and 49-0 as Matt Barkley returned for a triumphant, Heisman Trophy senior season, completing his unfinished business.

Photo left: Last season versus the Ducks, wiith Dion Jordan and Dwight Stuckey on the sidelines with injuries, Matt “Poppin’ Fresh” Barkley stayed toasty and comfortable in the pocket, feasting on a freshman secondary for four touchdowns and 323 yards. He did manage to poke himself in the stomach with a fourth quarter interception and a fumble as the Trojans oozed out a jammy 38-35 victory.

Except that the team from the Land of Make Believe didn’t follow the script. Kiffin’s collection of 5-star wunderkinds slipped against Stanford and Arizona, stumbling into the Coliseum 6-2. No ESPN Game Day. No Stiff Arm Trophy. Just a lot of finger pointing by the supposedly matured Kiffin and wasted heroics by Marquis Lee. That screeching sound you hear is the Lanester rapidly tossing coaches and players under the bus in the shadow of Heritage Hall as the losses and problems mounted for the under-achieving Trojans.

What kind of effort will the deposed kings of college football bring to the home turf on Saturday? When Tommy Trojan plants the sword, will they ride in on a wave of outrage and emotion, or mail it in between calls to NFL agents?  The Ducks have brought a steady and intense focus to 8 games. Even though USC is wounded and no longer nationally relevant, they are still an extremely talented and therefore dangerous team.

But a game in Southern California against a longtime nemesis has Oregon’s full attention. They’ll deliver a message to USC, and the BCS computers.