When Oregon first saw the USC Trojans on the schedule late in the year, the Ducks knew it was going to be another hard-fought battle that would likely result in a close contest.
Now, Oregon has been foaming at the mouth and can't wait to get on that field—particularly De'Anthony Thomas, who is as explosive as they come and lines up all over the football field.
The Ducks offense has been scoring at record pace, and there are very few teams that have the defense to slow this unit down. If you expect the Trojans to figure things out in a week, you are simply out of your mind and haven't seen this USC defense play much this year.
The Trojans are currently ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in total defense, are allowing over 360 yards a contest and nearly allowed 600 total yards and 39 points to the Arizona Wildcats last weekend in the team's second loss.
USC, meet Thomas.
Thomas is a sophomore athlete out of Los Angeles, CA and has picked up exactly where he left off last year. Thomas is averaging over eight yards a rush, nine yards a reception and is still the same force on the special teams side of things that he was a season ago.
Thomas takes snaps at the running back position, and you will also see him at wide receiver. You can try to cover him with man-coverage, but there aren't many guys on this earth who are able to keep up with him. Just ask USC linebacker Dion Bailey, who played against Thomas back in their high school days in California. According to Paul Buker of The Oregonian:
"They were trying to tell us how fast he was," Bailey said. "I mean, we played in the best division in California. We were thinking, 'Oh, he can't be that fast,' and then we played against him. I had never seen anyone that fast. Before we could blink our eyes, he had like 280 yards rushing on us."
Thomas has only touched the ball 58 times on running plays, and seven of those carries have gone for more than 20 yards, while 21 have resulted in first downs. Out of his 24 receptions, he has produced three plays that have racked up 15 yards or more. Good luck trying to keep up, let alone prevent a big play that gets taken to the house.
Because of this high-scoring spread offense that the Ducks run, USC has decided to go with smaller and more athletic linebackers this season to try and keep up with these speedy Oregon players. All three of the Trojans linebackers, including Bailey, are all undersized guys, but they are supposed to be athletic and quick enough to chase down these Oregon players.
The problem is that the Ducks are doing an excellent job of blocking downfield and opening up holes at the line of scrimmage. The defensive line play for USC has been very inconsistent at times and has made the job much more difficult for the rest of this defense, including the secondary that constantly gets sucked in on play-action, as it is needed desperately to stop the running game.
There have been five games this season where the Trojans have allowed at least 100 rushing yards, which include allowing over 200 yards on the ground to Stanford and Arizona. If those teams were able to have a field day against this unit, I can only imagine what Oregon—a team that is third in the country in rushing yards—is going to do.
The scary part of the whole thing is that Oregon hasn't even played its starters in the second half of most games, as the Ducks have had such a commanding lead that head coach Chip Kelly pulls them out with still a half to play.
And if USC fans weren't scared before this matchup, here is a tweet from ESPN stats and info that should receive your attention.
Oregon has scored 50+ pts in 1st half 3 times since 2010. No other team has done that more than once. #Ducks— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 27, 2012
The Ducks have found ways to improve this offensive machine, as the team is much faster and is running even more plays than it was a season ago. Last year, Oregon was only averaging 72.5 offensive plays a game, while this season that number has jumped up to 88.5. If USC has had trouble with spread offenses already this season, there is little doubt the best spread offense in the country will give this unit fits.
Thomas didn't have much of an impact in last year's meeting, but he will make up for it in this matchup, as the Ducks look unstoppable on the offensive side of the ball.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.