I’ll be honest, I do not expect USC to beat Oregon. I want them to, oh how I want them to. However, after watching their playing, their penalties, their total lack of discipline and the way they fall apart in the fourth quarter, I don’t have much hope.
Lane Kiffin is still calling the plays, after all.
Matt Barkley is still having a largely underwhelming season (due in large part to the play-calling).
The Trojans are still the most penalized team in the entire FBS division. 120 out of 120 folks. The amount of penalties committed per game this season is staggering and, frankly, unacceptable. In 2012 so far, USC has 82 penalties for 677 penalty yards. Conversely, Oregon has 63 penalties for 567 penalty yards.
Last week versus Arizona the Trojans has 13 penalties for 117 yards. Six of those were 15-yard, automatic first-down personal fouls. Six personal fouls in one game. Why is this USC team playing so undisciplined, so dirty?
All of that said, USC is, of course, loaded with talent. Marqise Lee is a superstar. Robert Woods, Silas Redd and Xavier Grimble are formidable weapons. The Trojans’ depth of talent belies their lack of roster depth.
So, does USC stand a chance of beating the Ducks?
Of course they do. After all, they did it last year at Autzen, when the Trojans were also a two-loss team.
Magic could happen again. This is the Pac-12, where crazy things happen nearly every week.
Consider, if you will, that Oregon has been blowing teams away week-in and week-out for a couple of seasons now. When a team can keep it close, as USC did in 2011, the Ducks don’t know how to deal. They are not used to playing from behind.
The Ducks’ average margin of victory in 2012 is 34 points and their closest game was a 17-point win over Fresno State. In the Pac-12, Oregon’s closest game was a 22-point win over ASU.
So it stands to reason that if USC can keep it close, they have a chance, right?
Well…not so fast Trojan fans. The Ducks have led six of their eight games this season by at least 28 points at the half. In the two games with a lower margin, the Ducks came out in the second half to embarrass their opponents (Arizona, Washington State) 36-0 in the third quarter.
While USC has played a number of close games this season, the Ducks have not. Oregon has not seen even a remote ephemeral threat placed on them in the fourth quarter. USC has fought for its very life in nearly every fourth quarter this season.
And that is the key to this game. Oregon doesn’t have any experience in close games. I said on Facebook yesterday “I hate agreeing with Herbie, but he's right. ‘Kirk Herbstreit thinks the game plan against Oregon is simple: USC must dictate tempo.’”
And that is the truth, right there. If USC can come out and control the tempo, keep the penalties at bay and rely on its superior talent—the Trojans could pull out a win.
After all, if it is a close game with little time left, who would you rather go to—Matt Barkley, the four-year starter playing at home, or the redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota playing in a hostile environment? In that situation (assuming Lane’s play-calling is not koo koo for Cocoa Puffs as that last drive at Arizona was) my money is on Barkley.
Sure, USC’s two losses have taken some of the luster off of this game for the national media and casual fans. But trust me, USC does not take Oregon lightly—EVER—and Oregon will be looking to avenge last’s year’s loss at home.
There’s always the chance that last week’s debacle at Arizona was a case of the Trojans looking past the Wildcats to the Ducks.