The NCAA track and field championships beginning today at the University of Oregon could become a showdown between Southern California's speed and Texas-El Pasco's muscle.

Track & Field News, the bible for this sort of thing, figures UTEP to score 64 points - six more than it predicts for USC.

"We're one of the teams to beat, everyone knows that," says UTEP Coach Ted Banks, "but Southern CAL, UCLA and Washington State look good, too."

A dark horse for the team title is Auburn. As does, USC, the War Eagles expect to get practically all of their points in the sprints, risky in a meet of this caliber. There are numerous heats to run over three day and sprinters are not the most durable of athletes.

Auburn sprinter Harvey Glance will try to become a three-time repeat winner in the 100 meters, but he will be hard pressed by USC's Clancy Edwards and two football players, Texas Johnny Jones and Texas A&M's Curtis Dickey. Glance also will run the 200.

Auburn also has quarter-miler Willie Smith, who has a world best 44.73 this year, and two other sprinters in this year, and two other sprinters in Tony Easley and James Walker, who doubles as an intermediate hurdler.

That group could offset some of USC's sprint strength, as the Trojans best events are the 100, 200, 400 and both relays.

UTEP, based on premeet performances, almost has a lock on a number of events. Steeplechaser James Munyala is going for his fourth straight championship in that event. Hans Almstrom figures to win the shot put and Svein Walvik is the top discus candidate. In addition, Emmitt Berry should finish high in the hammer and the Miners have two good triple jumpers. Rodolfo Gomez in the 5,000 meters and Mike Musyoki in the 10,000 are sure point producers.

The distances belong to the Washington State Cougars. Nicknamed the Kenya Kougars because WSU's best runners are double world record holder Henry Rono, another world record holder, Samson Kimombwa, and Joel Cheryuiot and Josh Kimeto - all from Kenya.

Rono is the world record holder in the steeplechase and the 5,000 meter run and Kimombwa has the record in the 10,000.

The University of Maryland has a strong team with hurdlers Skeets Nehemiah and Greg Robertson and long jumper Bob Calhoun, but the Terps will be hard pressed to finish near the leaders for the team title.

The other Maryland entrants are Robert Calhoun and Dennis Ivory in the long jump, Ian Pyka in the shot put and David Cornwell in the 5,000 meters. Ivory also is entered in the triple jump and Maryland has a team in the 400-meter relay.

Howard is represented by its mile relay team and Kevin Byrne of Georgetown will run in the 1,500 meters.

Of all the Capital-area entrants, Nehemiah rates the best chance of winning. His 13.37 clocking in the 110 meter high hurdles is the second fastest in the nation to the 13.34 by Greg Foster of UCLA.

Two of the more glamorous events, the pole vault and the high jump, will feature two of America's brightest new stars, Mike Tully of UCLA and Franklin Jacobs of Fairleigh Dickinson.

Tully is the only bona fida 18-footer in the field. Tully set a world record with a vault of 18-8 3/4 two weeks ago in the Pac-8 meet, but the record was denied because the meet officials, in remeasuring the bar, knocked it off the standards. When it was replaced, Tully lost 3/4 of an inch and the record.

Jacobs, 5-foot-8 phenom, who former world record holder Dwight Stones says, "has set high jumping back 20 years" with his unique "Jacobs' slope" style, leaped 7-7 1/4 in the Millrose games earlier this year. That lasted as the world record for one week until Vladimir Yashchenko of the Soviet Union jumped 7-8 1/2.

The meet will conclude Saturday with 15 finals. Today's competition will be devoted to trials except for finals in five of the decathlon events.

Tomorrow's competition includes finals in the 110-meter high hurdles, the 100 meters, the10,000 meters, the shot put and the long jump.