The nations best offense will go on the road this weekend to face a re-energized Trojan team that has declared this weekends test as the schools “bowl game”. In anticipation of another top ranked team taking their fist L this weekend; ESPN’s college game day will be in LA this Saturday to cover this Pac-10 match-up. A night game that pits two high powered offenses against each other will undoubtedly create some fireworks on the night before Halloween, but it’s the little things that are going to determine the outcome of this contest.
- USC defense coming off bye week: The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Trojans. Lane Kiffin admitted his defensive coordinator’s/dad’s well known Tampa two defense was “irrelevant…” when facing a spread offense as potent as the Ducks. Just when it seemed as if the USC defense finally “got it” after an impressive performance against Cal, here come the defensive staff with a new scheme that was nothing like what they had been doing this year (just what a defense surrendering 400 plus yds/gm needs). There have also been rumbles out of So Cal that the Trojan’s have been speeding up practice to try to simulate the pace of the Oregon offense. Good luck with that Lane. Unless the the USC coaching staff has an unlimited amount of defensive lineman at their disposal and effectively taught the entire defensive backfield to tackle all over again I just don’t see the Trojan D keeping up with the Ducks. Look for Oregon to test the questionable tackling of USC by throwing some early WR screens, and after the SC defense begins to creep towards the sidelines Lemichael James will gladly reintroduce himself to the city of LA.
- Oregon front 7 vs USC O-line: Oregon’s front 7 is fast and athletic but extremely undersized. The Ducks have been using their speed upfront to blow by the bigger slower opposition thus far, but USC’s O-line will provide a different challenge. They posses a rare combination of size and athleticism which has translated into a 6.0 yds/carry average on the ground, and a clean #7 jersey post-game. In order for the Trojans to keep pace the big guys up front must show up in a big way.
- Offensive efficiency: 127 plays in one hour and fifty minutes, 32 plays in 12 minutes. Those were the numbers that the Ducks put up during Wednesdays practice. If you are going by efficiency Wednesdays numbers were some the best the Ducks offense has put up in any practice this year. 144th, Oregon’s rank amongst fbs schools in time of possession, which makes their #1 scoring offense that much more impressive. Is it possible that an offense that has put up 55 points per game is still getting better? A scary thought for Trojan fans who have seen their porous defense exposed on numerous occasions. The Ducks 42 point output vs ASU is their season low this year, and although SC is 8th in the nation in scoring offense they’re average offensive output simply won’t cut it this week (USC-37ppg, you do the math). Look for the Ducks to continue to roll on offense while the SC defense is paralyzed by a new scheme and blistering pace. My advice to ABC, got get some of those high speed cameras they use to film shark attacks if you want to keep up with the Ducks. Because if they continue to play like they practice, they’re only going to get faster!
- 3rd downs & penalties will play a big role: If the USC offense does have one up on the the high flying Ducks it comes on 3rd down. The Trojans are 3rd in the nation converting nearly 53% of their 3rd down opportunities this year while the Ducks are 28th at 43%. This may prove to be the most important stat of the game. If Barkley and company can sustain drives and keep the Oregon offense off the field for long periods of time, the Trojans chances of pulling off the upset will be that much greater. SC must avoid those dreaded yellow flags as well. Lane Kiffin’s team has commited 57 penalties already this year some of which have come at crucial times in the Trojan’s two close losses. Emotions will be running high on Saturday night for both teams, look for that emotion to get the best of USC and cost them some yards on both sides of the ball.
- Loose lips sink ships: The Torjans haven’t been shy about providing bulletin board material for the Ducks this week. Matt Barkley’s tweet got him loads of unwanted attention earlier this week even though he removed it shortly after he originally posted the message. Too late Matt, the nation heard you loud and clear now it’s time to put up or shut-up…LEZGO! Barkley found some company in the bulletin board club when DT Jurrell Casey made the bold claim that the Ducks, aside from James and Thomas “They’re really not that good.” I admire the kid for having the courage to go out on a limb and speak his mind, taking into account that the limb probably isn’t strong enough to hold up the 300 lb junior. Good thing there’s a solid offense at SC that can break his fall.
This should be a fun one to watch. Both quarterbacks are coming off career highs, Thomas in yards (308 in 3 quarters vs UCLA) and Barkley in TD passes (5 vs Cal). USC believes they can win this game and that belief will get stronger with every passing minute they are able to keep the game close at home. The Trojans D-line will get back some key players this week which will be crucial as they look to rotate players in and out to keep pace with the Oregon offense. The Duck defense will have their hands full with a potent Trojan offense as well. Oregon is 3rd in the nation in passes defended and 1st in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense. In order for them to stay undefeated the DBs are going to have to continue to make plays on the ball, because if they don’t USC will. This game will be close early as both offenses make their way up and down the field, but the the opportunistic defense of Oregon will end up making a big play that turns the game in the Ducks favor. No one has been able to stay with the Ducks in the second half of games this year, and although SC will put forth a great effort they will become just another statistic as Oregon proves to the nation once again that they are in fact the #1 team in the land.
Oregon- 45 USC-31
About the Author
Written by Jordan Nelson
University of Oregon calss of '06 currently working for Synrgy Sports Consulting (www.synrgysports.com / Twitter.com/synrgysports) as the director of student services. I also do some work for the facilities and operations staff in the Stanford athletic department. College football is my passion, and aside from the Ducks I also follow the rest of the Pac-10 and the Minnesota Vikings.