USC-Oregon: Ducks Look to Prove They're for Real

Tristan HolmesCorrespondent IOctober 24, 2007

Icon Sports MediaJeremiah who?

Oregon showed its offense still has more than enough playmakers while running up 465 yards on the ground against border rival Washington in Seattle.

The only thing keeping the game close until the fourth quarter was a Duck defense that surrendered four touchdown passes and a number of backbreaking big plays.

Things will be far tougher for the Ducks this week, as they face a speedy USC defense and a healthy Trojan offense.

The only good news for Oregon’s defense is that nobody will have to spy the quarterback; John David Booty and Mark Sanchez aren't going to be running many option plays.

For Oregon to win this game, a number of things need to go right.

First and foremost, the Ducks have to win the turnover battle. Against a defense as good as USC’s, even Oregon’s playmakers need as many opportunities as they can get.

Stopping the Trojan tailbacks is another priority. Safeties Patrick Chung and Matthew Harper will likely play in the box, leaving sophomore corners Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond III exposed on the flanks.

Though both are talented and experienced, they allowed big plays against the Huskies—and must improve their solo coverage against a talented, if inexperienced, USC receiving corps.

As good as Jonathan Stewart, Andre Crenshaw, and Dennis Dixon are on the ground, a repeat of last week’s numbers will be impossible against USC—especially given the Trojans' speed at linebacker.

Instead, Dixon and his receivers will have to gain yards through the air against the Trojan secondary.

The Ducks kickoff and punt return teams have performed well this season, and if Oregon can improve its kick coverage, special teams could give them the edge in what looks to be a close game.

Saturday will be a historic occasion—the first time both teams playing at Autzen Stadium have been ranked in the AP Top 10, as well as the first time the Trojans will be an underdog in the Pac-10 since 2001 (the last season they lost to Oregon).

As an avid Ducks fan, I'll of course predict an Oregon win, but it will take great execution in all phases of the game—to say nothing of a little luck—to beat a USC team that's sure to be ready to play.

Final Score: Oregon 31, Southern Cal 30 

Conference Calls

Arizona and Washington are a game away from seeing their bowl dreams  go up in smoke. Given home-field advantage and Jake Locker’s playmaking ability, I (rather reluctantly) predict a win for the Huskies.

The schizophrenic UCLA Bruins ruined Cal’s Rose Bowl run at home. With a healthy Patrick Cowan, they should beat Washington State in Pullman.

Note the word "should." With this Bruins team, I take no responsibility for what actually happens.

Stanford is no longer in last place in the conference, and Oregon State has more offensive linemen in the infirmary than on the two-deep depth chart—but Yvenson Bernard is still capable of getting some hard yards and leading the Beavers over the Cardinal in Corvallis.

California once seemed like this season’s best bet to play Cinderella in January, but the bell tolled midnight against the Beavers and Bruins. Arizona State is a much better team under Dennis Erickson, but not good enough to contain playmakers like Cal’s.

Jeff Tedford won’t let the skid go to three in a row.