When the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans square off this weekend in the Los Angeles Coliseum, you will see many popular names on the field. Many of those players have already established themselves as college football players, and will eventually make a name for themselves in the NFL.
But with a matchup that is so close on the field and has so much on the line, the outcome of the game is often decided by the guys you wouldn't expect to make an impact. Sure, the offenses are terrific on both sides, but both clubs are also above-average defensive teams, and have guys that could make a difference on that side of the ball.
We all know about Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas.
Here are a few players that could make a difference in this game, and help decide who will take that next step towards accomplishing its 2012 goals.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
This Season: 24 tackles, six tackles for loss and five sacks
Why He Is an X-Factor: While Dion Jordan receives most of the credit on the defensive line and has NFL scouts drooling over his potential, Hart is tied with the senior pass-rusher with five sacks. The junior gets off the ball quickly and runs well enough to be able to chase down ball carriers in the backfield.
With Jordan listed as questionable for the big game, Hart may need to have his biggest game yet in an Oregon uniform, as he will be expected to generate relentless pressure on quarterback Matt Barkley.
This Season: 52 tackles, four interceptions, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles
Why He Is an X-Factor: Bailey is only a sophomore, but he has made as big an impact on this defense as any other player on the roster. He is a safety at heart, but plays the linebacker position this year in more of a hybrid role for the Trojans.
He has a knack for making the big play, has a great combination of quickness and speed, and is a tackling machine, as he is currently second on the team. Most are going to pay attention to the offensive side of the ball, but Bailey is a difference maker on defense.
This Season: 19 receptions, 226 receiving yards and three touchdowns
Why He Is an X-Factor: Addison is a true freshman and was one of the last recruits to commit to Oregon in the 2012 class, but he is currently leading this squad in receiving.
He has caught a touchdown in the last two games, and due to his speed, he is averaging close to 12 yards a reception. He isn't the biggest receiver at 5'10", but is a versatile player that helps the Ducks out on the special team’s side of things as well.
He is a player that is a threat to break one whenever he has the football in his hands.
This Season: 117 attempts, 640 rushing yards and seven touchdowns
Why He Is an X-Factor: The crazy thing about running back Silas Redd is that USC doesn't use him as much as they could. He is averaging fewer than 15 carries a game and has only 16 touches in the last two games combined.
Still, Redd is as consistent as you would like to see from your running back, averaging over five yards a carry and scoring at least one touchdown in six of the first eight games.
Due to his bullying running style, Redd will be a handful for this Oregon defense.
This Season: Andre Heidari, USC, 6-9 on field goal attempts and 24-25 on extra points. Rob Beard, Oregon, 4-7 on field goal attempts and 55-55 on extra points.
Why They Are X-Factors: The place kicking for both teams isn't as accurate as you would like to see from two teams competing for a BCS bowl.
In fact, both clubs are making less than 70 percent of their field goal attempts, and Oregon is 11th in the Pac-12 in this category. Due to the explosive offenses both teams have, many times the coaching staffs have gone for it on fourth down rather than try to convert on a field goal.
You may say that neither team needs an accurate field goal kicker, as both squads score too many touchdowns for it to matter. But in a game that could possibly come down to the wire, the game could be decided on whether or not a kicker can put the ball between the goalposts.
After all, last year’s meeting was decided by just three points.