As if counting the days to opening day couldn’t get more anxious, ESPN revealed their fifth best game of 2011 on Sunday, as they re-aired last November’s USC victory over Oregon. Not only did the game serve as a remembrance of the big win for Lane Kiffin’s Trojan, it begs the questions as to whether or not the USC can beat Oregon twice this year.
Last year, the same was asked of the LSU Tigers‘ attempt at beating Alabama twice, and they ultimately failed on the biggest stage in college football. Beating teams more than once in the same season just isn’t easy.
Last December, Sports Delve looked at the phenomenon of rematches in college football, and they discovered that, “teams that have won the first game in a two-game season series between AP ranked teams, have a 10-9 record in the rematch game. In conference championship games, that record goes to 8-4.”
However, those stats were compiled before the playing of three rematches last December and January, with Michigan State-Wisconsin, Clemson-Virginia Tech and LSU-Alabama. Of those matchups, only Clemson prevailed twice, beating Virginia Tech both in conference play and in the ACC Championship Game. That gives teams an even 50 percent split of winning the second game, despite going 9-5 in conference championship games.
When the Ducks come flying into the Coliseum on November 3rd, home field advantage for the Pac-12 Championship Game will likely be on the line. Last year, despite the Trojans winning in Eugene 38-35, had the Trojans been eligible for postseason play, they would have needed to repeat the feat just two weeks later, with the Ducks hosting the championship game.
This year, a win over the Ducks would likely clinch a seventh home game at the Coliseum to set up what would be the tall task of USC having to beat Oregon twice to win a trip to Miami for the National Championship Game.
While the Trojans could benefit from the prospects of hosting the Ducks twice, being victorious in both will depend on three big factors: The Trojans will have to limit Oregon’s use of De’Anthony Thomas, play and win the game of adjustments, and force the hand of the Ducks’ still-to-be-determined quarterback, who will be green, no pun intended.
In 2011, De’Anthony Thomas was really controlled by the Trojans for much of the game, which enabled USC to shut down the Ducks for three quarters. Given Oregon’s offensive prowess, shutting them down for most but not all of a game is a victory in itself. Thomas’s kick return for a touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Ducks life, and as seen in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, if you give him room to run, he will kill you.
With the kind of home run talent in the Oregon backfield, you almost have to feel that if the Trojans are going to beat the Ducks twice, they’ll have to be willing to settle for containment, especially considering that Chip Kelly and Lane Kiffin will have to duel in a game of adjustments.
If the Trojans contain Thomas, Kelly will put the ball in the hands of Kenjon Barner and vice versa. Where the Trojans have the advantage however, is not only play at the quarterback position, but the ability for the USC offense to force the adjustments of the opposition, rather than Kiffin having to adjust his offense himself.
Need an example? Consider that when the Trojans are at their best, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are freeing up space for each other in the secondary, and the tandem together enables Curtis McNeal be effective, and passes to open tight-ends possible. That circular dynamic of the SC offense is something that’s hard to defend, because opposing teams must develop a game plan for taking out more than one playmaker.
However, given the boom and busts in the last two USC-Oregon outings, it’s clear that either team winning twice will be a tall order. The Trojans had momentum in 2010 but ultimately lost big, yet held on last fall in a slug-fest.
It won’t be easy by any means, but if the Trojans meet the Ducks twice and separate the games into two separate, yet cohesive mindsets, they’ll give themselves a chance to get to Miami. But both past history and Oregon’s high-flying attack will be standing in their way.