USC Trojans vs. Oregon Ducks Game Preview and Prediction

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USC Trojans vs. Oregon Ducks Game Preview and Prediction
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The No. 18* USC Trojans travel to inhospitable Autzen Stadium to play the No. 4* Oregon Ducks on Saturday, November 19.  They are the “hottest team in the country,” said USC coach Lane Kiffin.

Here is the weekly USC Media Release for the game.

Very few except the USC players and coaches believe the Trojans will beat the Ducks at Autzen. After all, Oregon has won the last 21 home games there dating back to September 20, 2008, when Boise State won 37-32.

However, if the Trojans can pull off the upset they will likely end up 10-2.

Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff, together with a very young team, have significantly improved the Trojan team this season from the 8-5 record last year when no more than 57 scholarship players could suit up for any game.

It is a transformation that has been carefully planned and executed in spite of the uncertainties caused by the NCAA sanctions and appeal, and despite criticisms from the media and some fans who didn’t understand.

Just wait until next season and no one will have any doubts about the master plan.

Let’s face it, USC needs to play its best game to beat Oregon and needs some turnover breaks to seal the victory.

The Trojans are faster and deeper this year especially on defense and adjustments have been made for teams like Oregon. Of course, there really aren’t any other teams like the Ducks.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Oregon coach Chip Kelly

The Ducks pick at their opponents in the first half, make adjustments and then turn on the jets in the second half after their opponent’s players are worn out from their depth and speed. USC was leading last season in the third quarter, but could not keep up with Oregon due to lack of depth.

This year it’s different.

Of course, the Ducks need to win to have any chance of getting into the National Championship game so they may be a little motivated also.

 

Key Stats Comparison

 

Category

USC

Ranking

Oregon

Ranking

Rushing Offense (Yards)

166.3

50

291.8

5

Passing Offense (Yards)

278.4

23

206.5

79

Total Offense (Yards

444.7

28

498.3

8

Scoring Offense (Points)

34.1

27

46.7

3

Passing Efficiency (Percent)

152.4

21

160.9

12

Third Down Conversions (Percent)

46.5

24

44.6

38

Red-Zone Conversions (TD)

57.1

82

77.8

9

Sacks Allowed (Number)

0.6

3

0.7

T-6

Rushing Defense (Yards)

100.4

8

147.2

56

Pass Defense (Yards)

263.4

100

238.2

80

Total Defense (Yards)

363.8

49

385.4

63

Scoring Defense (Points)

24.8

55

21.7

33

Sacks (Number)

2.3

T-32

3.2

5

Tackles for Loss (Number)

5.1

81

7.1

23

Net Punting (Yards/Punt)

35.9

80

44.3

1

Punt Returns (Yards)

9.3

46

11.1

29

Kickoff Returns (Yards)

20.4

80

22.3

51

FG Success (Percent)

87.5

T-5

66.7

T-69

Turnover Margin

-0.1

70

0.5

27

Penalties

52.3

T-69

63.4

98

 

Keys to USC victory

All USC has to do is play better than Oregon on offense, defense and special teams and then hope for breaks from the officials and turnovers. And do this for four quarters.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
USC QB leads the Trojan offense

The USC offense led by QB Matt Barkley (247-of-370, 67 percent, 29 TD, 6 INT, 152.5 rating) should take care of business if it can maintain a balanced attack. There must be no turnovers and minimal penalties, and they must convert most of the third downs and score TDs in the red zone.

His main weapons are WRs Robert Woods (92 receptions, 1126 yards, 11 TD) and Marqise Lee (52 receptions, 732 yards, 8 TD), and RBs Curtis McNeal (113 carries, 787 yards, 5 TD) and Marc Tyler (104 carries, 488 yards, 5 TD).

The biggest offensive issue to overcome is red-zone TD conversions. USC converts 57 percent compared to 78 percent for Oregon.

On paper, USC has a better defense than Oregon. However, both teams are playing very good defense in recent games.

The Trojans have to pressure Duck QB Darron Thomas (124-of-205, 61 percent, 22 TD, 5 INT, 160.8 rating) into making mistakes and that hasn’t happened much this season.

Then there is the nation’s leading rusher, LaMichael James (153 carries, 1207 yards, 12 TD), Kenjon Banner (97 carries, 643 yards, 8 TD) and freshman De’Anthony Thomas (46 carries, 366 yards, 5 TD; 27 receptions, 423 yards, 7 TD).

Thomas is especially difficult to stop including special teams.

Other top Oregon targets include WRs Lavasier Tuinei (30 receptions, 372 yards, 8 TD) and Josh Huff (19 receptions, 294 yards, 2 TD) and TE David Paulsen (17 receptions, 233 yards, 4 TD), a 2010 All-Pac-10 first teamer.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Nick Perry is hard to stop on the DL

And there lies the problem.

The Ducks have so many weapons and spread the field so well that you better make every tackle or they are gone for a long score.

Said Kelly, "We have ways to get all of those guys on the field at the same time."

One of the keys of the game is making sure tackles, especially in space. No bumping. Swarm to the ball. Wrap up. Play your position.

USC has to tackle better than they have —and for all four quarters, even when the players are tired.

The one chink in the offensive armor of the Ducks is third down conversions:

“Oregon, which was 1 of 9 on third down against Stanford, has struggled in that situation as the season has progressed. The Ducks converted 50 percent of those opportunities in September, 45.7 percent in October and only 28.6 percent so far in November.”

The USC defense must get stops. A lot of stops.

Special teams must have another game like Washington.

Here are the USC offense and defense depth charts for the Washington game courtesy of The Orange County Register.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Oregon RB LaMichael James leads the nation in rushing

 

Keys to Oregon Victory

It is really simple for Oregon. Just keep doing what you are doing and do not make turnovers.

Not only is Autzen Stadium a nut house, but the weather will favor the Ducks also. WeatherSpark shows 39 degrees at kickoff with a 65 percent chance of rain or snow showers. Temperatures could even go down into the 20s.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, "USC is 0-2 in games played in snow, according to USC's sports information office. The Trojans last played in snow on Nov. 30, 1957, losing at Notre Dame, 40-12. In 2004, USC reveled in a pregame hailstorm at Washington State and won, 42-12."

 

Prediction

Oregon opened as a 16.5-point favorite.

Given all this, the Ducks can just dial in a victory and move onto the "Pac-11" Conference Championship game.

Not so quick.

Here come the Trojans and they are not the team you expect.

As DT Christian Tupou said, "I don’t want to say anything about Oregon, but we will play anybody, anywhere. We’ll show up ready to fight. We’ll play anybody—on the field, in the parking lot... Nobody’s scared around here.”

 

USC 41, Oregon 38 

Catch the nationally televised game on ABC this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. PT if you can’t make it in person. Broadcasters are Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit and Heather Cox.

 

*Week 12 AP ranking

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