Oregon vs. USC: How Ducks Cover the Spread Against Trojans

Darin PikeContributor INovember 2, 2012

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Tight end David Paulson #42 of the Oregon Ducks is stopped short of the goal line by safety Jawanza Starling #29 and cornerback Nickell Robey #21 of the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. USC won the game 38-35. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Oregon Ducks were anxiously awaiting their first major challenge of the 2012 football season, squaring off against a top 10 USC team.

The Trojans forgot to read their end of the script, though, and dropped a shootout to the Arizona Wildcats to fall to 6-2 on the season. That game will cost the Ducks some points in the suddenly-important computer rankings and could keep USC out of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Oregon will be looking for a little bit of payback. The Trojans went to Eugene last fall and broke the Ducks' 21-game home winning streak. The loss cost Oregon an undefeated season and a trip to the national title game.

Beating USC won't completely make up for what Oregon lost last season, but that game is behind them. The Ducks are focused on taking care of the 2012 season and getting back to the National Championship Game.

There are several factors working against the Trojans in this game. They won in a shootout last season but there are some unique differences in the two teams this season.

The USC offense is still high-powered. They have a decent ground game and Matt Barkley has a pair of excellent receivers.

Oregon's defense is a little better this season and they certainly will have a better plan for covering Marqise Lee, who had 187 yards and a pair of touchdowns last year. 

The real difference in this game comes on the other side of the ball, though. As discussed in an earlier game overview and predictions article, the speed of Oregon's offense will be too much for USC.

The Trojans were able to spread out the Ducks' offense last year. They had great pursuit and didn't allow many yards after contact.

They won't be able to match that effort against the Ducks in 2012.

The losses of Nick Perry (DE), DaJohn Harris (DT) and Christian Tupou (DT) have hindered the run-stopping up the middle. USC has also seen its outside pursuit weakened while linebacker Chris Galippo is also missed.

Arizona wants to run an up-tempo, high-paced offense similar to the Ducks. But they don't have near the team speed or execution finesse of Oregon.

LaMichael James has moved on to the NFL, or at least to an NFL roster. But Kenjon Barner has picked up his carries quite well this season.

Barner has a bit of size compared to James. For a smaller, quicker back they have De'Anthony Thomas, who is averaging 8.6 yards per carry. He has 499 rushing yards and 218 through the air with a combined 10 touchdowns this season.

The struggles USC had with Arizona's offense will be magnified when they line up opposite Oregon. 

Another major change for Oregon is at quarterback. Darron Thomas technically left school for the NFL, but there was no interest in his services at that level.

The more accurate take is he was going to lose his starting job to Marcus Mariota, so why not take the gamble and try to get drafted?

Where Thomas was a runner that would occasionally throw the ball, Mariota can actually change the course of a game with his arm. Oregon needed that last season when the Trojans were stopping the ground attack early and Thomas couldn't deliver.

If USC sells out to stop the run on Saturday, then Oregon will go to the air...and have success doing so.

The speed and skill of Oregon's offense is simply too much for an undisciplined Trojan defense. The 39 points Arizona scored on USC is but a glimpse of what Oregon can produce.

The Ducks' offense hasn't had to play a hard 60 minutes yet. If they opt to do so against USC, they could surpass the 50-point mark.


Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.