Gameday Preview: USC vs. Oregon Ducks


Original photographs by Gary Vasquez, US PRESSWIRE. Photoshopped by Michael Castillo, Reign Of Troy.

USC Trojans vs. Oregon Ducks

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum | Los Angeles, Calif.4:30 PM Pacific | FOXAll-time Series: USC leads 38-18-2Last meeting: USC 38, Oregon 35 in 2011

Going into the season, this was to be the game the of year in the Pac-12. It was going to be a national semi-final and possibly the first of two games between the two best teams west of the Mississippi. Today, it’s simply USC’s opportunity to finally put it all together and knock Oregon off of their perch as the Pac-12’s present day king.

The Ducks have momentum, a high ranking and an offense that not even U.S. government could contain, while the Trojans come in fresh off of a loss to a team that Oregon defeated 49-0. The odds appear to be stacked wholly against Lane Kiffin and his team, as evident by the biggest spread for a USC home game in 15 years.

But alas, this is virtually the same team that beat No. 3 Oregon last November. It’s the same team that matches up with Oregon perhaps better than any team in the country. It’s the same Trojan team that shut down the Ducks offense for three quarters last year and the same one that Marqise Lee had 187 receiving yards for.

This is the USC team built to beat Oregon. Can they do it again?

Gameday links

When Oregon has the ball…

When an offense is as talented, methodical and potent as the Oregon Ducks, where do you look first? They lead the world in scoring, they’re faster than every team they play and are averaging 330 yards on the ground per game. Quite frankly, they’re college football’s version of Usian Bolt, attire and bravado included. Oregon’s yet to be challenged this season, despite having brief moments of pseudo-peril against Arizona and Washington State. Nonetheless, the Ducks are justly second in the human polls due to their ability to kill off teams quickly. Quarterback Marcus Mariota entered fall camp in a dog fight with Bryan Bennett for the starting spot, and since winning the job back in August, the redshirt freshman has been stellar for the Ducks. He leads the Pac-12 in completion percentage and only Arizona State’s Tyler Kelly has a better touchdowns to interception ratio. But what makes Oregon’s offense a nightmare for defensive coordinators, is the depth of their speed. The Ducks not only have one of the nation’s fastest quarterbacks, they have two speedy backs in Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas that can split defenses in a heartbeat. Through eight games, Barner has been the featured back with 141 carries and has averaged a hair under seven yards per carry, good for second in the conference behind Thomas’s 8.6. For more on Oregon’s offense, click here.

The Trojans handed Arizona points last week by committed penalties that weren’t thought out too well. There were late hits, pass interferences, and just about as many penalties in the first half that’s required to keep Lane Kiffin up at night. The Trojans have good matchups on defense that should force the Mariota to throw and test Josh Shaw at corner and lessen their runs, in both losses this season, it’s been wearing down that has killed the Trojans, and mainly in the second half. USC gave up a 26-0 run to Arizona, a feat that never should have happened, if you consider the Wildcats converted on a 3rd & 22 in the fourth quarter, doing so on a 60-yard pass. There’s plenty of plays the Trojans want back, and so here’s their opportunity to get it all back.

Oregon’s Projected Offensive Starters:WR Daryle Hawkins #16LT Tyler Johnstone #64LG Ryan Clanton #60C Hroniss Grasu #55RG Nick Cody #61RT Jake Fisher #75TE Colt Lyerla #15WR Josh Huff #1WR Will Murphy #89QB Marcus Mariota #8RB Kenjon Barner #24 and De’Anthony Thomas #6

USC’s Projected Defensive StartersDE Wes Horton #96 or Greg Townsend Jr. #93DT George Uko #90NT Antwaun Woods #99DE Morgan Breslin #91WLB Hayes Pullard #10MLB Lamar Dawson #55SLB Dion Bailey #18CB Nickell Robey #21SS Jawanza Starling #29FS T.J. McDonald #7CB Torin Harris #4 or Josh Shaw #26

When USC has the ball…

Matt Barkley set a school record last week for passing yards in a game, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he played. Marqise Lee was the star of the show, picking up 345 receiving yards with nearly 7,732 being after the catch, aiding Barkley’s total. But for an offense that was seemingly so in sync on offense, it was the failure to convert in the red zone in the first half, and the failure to convert on third downs in the second half, along with a sub-par decision-making performance from Barkley that killed the Trojans. Against Oregon, they’ll want to run the ball extensively to minimize the Ducks time of possession, and until today, Nick Aliotti’s defense has yet to see a running attack as capable as the Trojans.

The best kept secret west of the Mississippi has to be just how good Oregon’s defense is. They’re ahead of Stanford, USC and Utah in every defensive statistic and they shutout the vaunted Arizona Wildcats’ offense, a feat that sounds better and better each week. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has always been a forward thinking coordinator, as evident with his rapid fire substitution mentality the fusing of a defense predicated on speed and quickness. But even with a defense that’s churned out dynamic players like Haloti Ngata, Patrick Chung and Cliff Harris, this group of Ducks has a near-perfect blend of senior leadership and talent that has allowed them to out-shine their predecessors so far this season. The 4-3 defense is anchored by stellar play at linebacker, where the Ducks had to replace current Miami Dolphin Josh Kaddu, a 2011 All-Pac-12 first teamer. Weakside linebacker Michael Clay and middle linebacker Kiko Alonso have been solid, as the duo leads the Ducks in tackles with 43 and 42, respectively. Clay is the defense’s captain and senior leader, while Alonso could be the most dynamic player on defense with his ability to make plays both in pass coverage and against the run, where he leads the team in tackles for loss. For more on Oregon’s defense, click here.

USC’s Projected Offensive StartersWR Robert Woods #2TE Xavier Grimble #86 or Randall Telfer #82LT Aundrey Walker #70 and Max Tuerk #75LG Marcus Martin #66 or Abe Markowitz #50C Khaled Holmes #78RG John Martinez #59RT Kevin Graf #77WR Marqise Lee #9QB Matt Barkley #7RB Silas Redd #25 or Curtis McNeal #22FB Soma Vainuku #31

Oregon’s Projected Defensive Starters:DE Taylor Hart #66NT Isaac Remington #65DT Wade Keliikipi #92DE Dion Jordan #96MLB Kiko Alonso #47WLB Michael Clap #46SLB Boseko Lokombo #25CB Terrence Mitchel #27FS Avery Patterson #21SS Brian Jackson #12CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu #14

Game Notes

  • With a win, the Trojans would notch the program’s 800th all-time win. The 700th win was against Stanford back in 2003. USC is 27 wins behind Oklahoma for 8th on the all-time list, while Michigan’s 900th win last week against Michigan State extended their record in college football.
  • USC’s loss to Arizona last week marked the sixth time that an FBS team has lost the game immediate following their victory over Colorado. The Oregon Ducks played Colorado last week, beating them 70-14.
  • USC has started the season with a 6-2 record in 10 of 11 seasons, with 2010 being the only season they started 5-2, without making it 6-2. The culprit to force a loss and ultimately a 6-3 start? The Oregon Ducks.
  • This will be just Oregon’s fifth trip to the Coliseum since 1997, and it’ll be the fifth time they wear all-white.
  • Calling the game today for FOX is Gus Johnson. The Trojans have never lost a home game in which he’s called it.