The Oregon Ducks have been one of the more elite teams in college football through the first two months.
Saturday, the Ducks get set to play #17 USC at 7 p.m. in Los Angeles
USC, a team with so much upside coming into the season, has yet to live up to their championship expectations.
Oregon, a team who’s exceeded expectations, should have no problem taking out USC to remain undefeated.
In terms of strength of schedule, Oregon and USC’s roads to Saturday’s game have been fairly even. Each has played Arizona, Colorado and Washington, but only one has come out with three wins.
Last week USC let Arizona score 39 points in a heart-breaking loss, a loss that most certainly ended USC’s championship hopes. Those 39 points were most by an opposing team against USC’s defense this season.
Turnovers have been the Achilles heel of the Trojans this season. Last Saturday, their five turnovers, including two Matt Barkley interceptions, cost them the game against Arizona.
Even their three turnovers against Stanford on Sept. 15, cost them the game.
For USC to have any chance against Oregon they need to limit the turnovers and Matt Barkley needs to have one of his better games.
Barkley, a preseason Heisman front-runner, has had a decent season thus far, but has shown flashes of inconsistency.
In USC’s game against 3-6 Cal on Sept. 22, the Heisman hopeful threw for just 192 yards with two TDs and two picks. Even in his game against Syracuse, Barkley only completed half his passes and threw for no touchdowns and two picks.
Barkley has rolled over opponents like Hawaii, Syracuse, Cal and Colorado, but has failed to step up in big games (ex. Stanford, Washington, Arizona).
Well, Saturday Barkley and the Trojans are faced with their biggest challenge yet in the Ducks.
With matching defenses, both averaging about 19 points against per game, Saturday’s slug fest is going to come down to the offenses.
Oregon has the top ranked offense in the country, an offense that has managed to outscore all their opponents by impressive margins. Their closest game came against Fresno State on Sept. 8 where they won by 17 points.
Oregon’s success is centered around head coach Chip Kelly’s balanced offense.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed about 69 percent of his passes this season and has thrown 18 touchdowns to five interceptions. He’s also one of the more mobile quarterbacks in college football rushing for 378 yards.
What’s really impressive about this Oregon team is the depth they have at the running back position. Running back Kenjon Barner has a chance to jump into the Heisman race with a big game on Saturday. Barner has run for 974 yards on 141 carries this season.
Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas is averaging almost nine yards per carry on 58 carries. Even third-stringer Byron Marshall has rushed for well over 300 yards.
USC is going to have to counter Oregon’s running game with Penn State transfer Silas Redd. Redd has underachieved mightily this season and hasn’t given Barkley much support on the ground.
Averaging just 5.5 yards, Redd has rushed for 640 yards on 117 carries. He’ll have to match Oregon’s triple threat rushing attack.
One USC advantage, and it’s a big one, is the 93,000 screaming fans that will fill USC’s Coliseum on Saturday.
Fans will have to be out in full force to have a chance at disrupting Oregon’s offense.
Oregon will roll to at least a 14 point victory in Los Angeles on Saturday.
USC doesn’t have enough in the running game to counter Oregon’s triple threat at running back, and at quarterback. Look for Matt Barkley to throw for over 300 yards with a few TDs, but also have at least two or three turnovers.