Why Oregon Already Has USC Beat for Pac-12 Title, BCS Championship Berth

Kay Jennings@KayJenningsPDXContributor IIISeptember 2, 2012

Why Oregon Already Has USC Beat for Pac-12 Title, BCS Championship Berth

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    If you're an Oregon Ducks fan, it's game on.

    If you're a USC Trojans fan, it's game over.

    While both teams scored an opening-weekend rout over lesser opponents, the Ducks outdid the Trojans in every category but one.

    It was also clear in Week 1 with poor showings by several other Pac-12 teams expected to compete—I'm talking to you, Cal, Stanford and Washington—that all the preseason hype about it being all about Oregon and USC was perhaps correct. (But don't tell Utah and UCLA quite yet; clearly, they didn't get the memo.)

    Here's the comparison of USC and Oregon with Week 1 in the books.

Marcus Mariota Is Better Than Matt Barkley

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    Yes, that's a strong, inflammatory statement. It's also true.

    Here are the statistics to back it up.

    Matt Barkley was 22 of 38 passes for 372 yards, four TDs and no interceptions. That's a 58-percent completion rate. Barkley stayed in the game until well into the fourth quarter, along with most of USC's starters.

    Marcus Mariota was 18 of 22 passes for 200 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. That's an 82 percent completion rate. Mariota and his fellow starters were done for the night and smiling on the sidelines with seven minutes remaining in the first half and the Ducks leading 50-3.

    Mariota's performance was not a fluke, nor wholly unexpected. The 18-year-old red-shirt freshman is the real deal. His presence in the pocket was commanding, and his leadership on the field is powerful.

    But it's Mariota's accurate throwing arm that had the crowd buzzing. Sticking my neck out, I don't think you will see Mariota's completion rate drop much below that stunning 82-percent all year. If he had remained in the Oregon game as long as Barkley remained in the USC game, Oregon would have scored 70 points.

    Take it to the bank, or possibly, to the Heisman ceremony.

Oregon Has the Better Running Game

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    It only took the combo of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas one quarter of football to put the game out of reach.

    The O-line did its job almost flawlessly for the Ducks, and Barner and Thomas made hay. And the third RB on the Ducks' depth chart, true freshman Byron Marshall, showed flashes of brilliance as well, scoring his first collegiate touchdown and racking up some yards in relief after the break.

    Conversely, where the heck was Curtis McNeal. Ten yards on five carries? Are you kidding me?

    And, while Silas Redd clearly will make an impact, I didn't like his fumble. Maybe they fumble at Penn State, but you don't fumble at USC, young man.

    Redd and Kenjon Barner both had nine rushes; Redd for 56 yards and Barner for 66 yards in their head-to-head competition. Barner finished his night early in the second quarter; Redd played well into the third.

    Barner and Thomas were flawless, absolutely no mistakes. Marshall looked like a freshman on only a couple of plays, and he will be a solid backup RB by midseason.

    If USC doesn't run the ball better soon, the Ducks will have a decided edge.

De'Anthony Thomas Is More Versatile Than Marqise Lee

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    Marqise Lee is a beautiful football player and will guide his team to many victories in 2012.

    But if I had to pick between them, I'd take De'Anthony Thomas.

    Thomas scored three touchdowns in one-and-a-half quarters. Marqise Lee scored two touchdowns in three quarters of play. Both players had stunning plays in the opening game, no question.

    Lee is certainly a threat, particularly in returning kickoffs, as he demonstrated with that 100-yard beauty. And we know he can catch the ball, reeling in 10 catches for 197 yards receiving. Great numbers, great game.

    However, DAT is more dangerous over the course of a full game than Lee simply because he's more versatile. He rushes, he catches and he returns, and he is, quite possibly, the best in the nation in all three categories.

    Maybe it's just Chip Kelly's creativity in how Thomas is deployed, but when we add it all up at the end of the year, De'Anthony Thomas beats Marqise Lee.

Defense

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    This category is difficult to compare based on the first game's result because USC played their starters so much longer than did Oregon.

    However, Duck fans must concede that their vaunted depth on defense was MIA in Week 1. The "twos" on the depth chart did their job just fine, but when it got down to the "threes" and even the "fours" in the second half, coverage broke down.

    Depth on defense is crucial in the Pac-12 with the fast-paced, highly efficient offenses around the conference. Based on Week 1, USC's reserves on defense did their job better than Oregon's.

    What we don't know is if Arkansas State's quarterback, Ryan Aplin, is just a whole lot better than Hawaii's Sean Schroeder. It will be fun to see how both teams fare as the season progresses.

In Summary

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    Both USC and Oregon got the rout they were looking for to kick off the new season. Both teams were impressive and did what they had to do.

    However, Oregon had the game put away before the first quarter ended. Its new QB was positively dazzling in his debut, with great poise and no mistakes. The starting defense was fearless and unforgiving. The coaching was without fault.

    With a little more killer instinct from the sidelines, the Ducks' win would have been so one-sided none of the pundits would be talking about any other team the day after.

    Including USC.

     

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