2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 12, USC at Oregon
Pac-12 Fearless Predictions &
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Nov. 19 USC 38 … at Oregon 35
CFN Analysis: USC just won what the Pac-12 title game would’ve been in a few weeks. Matt Barkley picked a great time to come up with the best game of his career, completing 26-of-34 passes for 323 yards and four scores, but it helped that Robert Woods and Marquise Lee were unstoppable. Lee caught eight passes for 187 yards and a score, and Woods made seven grabs for 53 yards and two touchdowns. … Even with everything working as perfectly as possible, and even with Barkley’s epic day, the Trojans still had to hang on for dear life and were saved by a missed field goal. … Hayes Pullard was tremendous, making 14 tackles with two sacks. … Get the hype machine going. The team is so young and so good that the preseason top five pick could be a lock going into the offseason. If Barkley returns, preseason No. 1 is possible.
LaMichael James might be the marquee name, but Kenjon Barner continued to show that he can blast out runs just as well. James ran for 3.9 yards per carry, while Barner showed more of a burst ripping off 123 yards and two scores on 15 carries. … Darron Thomas doesn’t get enough credit for his improved passing skills. He’s not Aaron Rodgers, but he completed 23-of-35 passes for 265 yards and a score in one of his best games. … USC played the near-perfect game and Oregon still almost pulled it out. The Pac-12 title is still there for the taking, and while the national title is gone, a win over Oregon State and a home win in the championship game means a second Rose Bowl trip in the last three years.
(AP) EUGENE, Ore. -- Matt Barkley was confident that USC (No. 18 AP) was headed for an upset all along, even when fourth-ranked Oregon mounted a comeback.
"We expected to shock everybody except ourselves," he said after throwing for 323 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-35 victory over the Ducks on Saturday night.
The loss snapped a 21-game winning streak for Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) at Autzen Stadium, which was the longest in the nation. It also stopped a 19-game winning streak in conference games.
But even more significantly, the loss derailed Oregon's hope for a second-straight berth in the BCS championship game. The Ducks were poised to move up in the BCS standings after No. 2 Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State 37-31on Friday night.
"I think this was a defining game for us," Barkley said. "We set ourselves apart on both sides of the ball."
Trailing 24-7 in the third quarter, Oregon launched a comeback and narrowed the margin to just three points on LaMichael James' 1-yard touchdown run with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Barkley led his team to the Oregon 15, but Marc Tyler fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Ducks with 2:54 to go. Oregon marched down the field but Alejandro Maldondado's 37-yard field goal attempt, which was brought 5 yards closer because of a USC penalty, went wide left.
Afterward, Ducks' fans stood stunned while the Trojans (9-2, 6-2) celebrated on the field. Once in the locker room, the team was so boisterous that they at times drowned out coach Lane Kiffin speaking to reporters in an adjoining room.
The victory was huge for USC, which cannot play in the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
"We needed this," Barkley said.
Robert Woods, who was held out of some practices this week with ankle and shoulder injuries, caught seven passes for 53 yards and two scores. Freshman Marqise Lee caught eight passes for 187 yards and a score.
Darron Thomas threw for 265 yards and a score for Oregon, while Kenjon Barner ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The Ducks, ranked fifth in the nation with nearly 292 rushing yards per game, were held to 209 yards by USC's defense.
"We lost a game," said James, who rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown. "Life goes on."
Against the Trojans, Oregon was playing catch up from the start.
The Trojans scored first on Barkley's 59-yard touchdown pass to Lee in the first quarter, then added Barkley's 12-yard scoring pass to Woods early in the second to go up 14-0.
The Ducks didn't' look like themselves until an efficient scoring drive midway through the second quarter. Thomas hit freshman Colt Lyerla with a 35-yard pass before hitting fellow frosh De'Anthony Thomas with a 29-yarder for the touchdown. The seven-play drive covered 88 yards in just 2:15.
But USC answered with Barkley's 4-yard touchdown pass to Woods. The TD, Barkley's 73rd, moved him past Carson Palmer for second on Southern California's career touchdown list. Matt Leinart had 99 for the Trojans.
The Ducks had a chance to narrow it before the half, but De'Anthony Thomas was out of bounds when he pulled down a Darron Thomas pass to the end zone. On the next play, James fumbled and the ball was recovered by USC.
James, who dislocated his elbow earlier in the season and missed two games, was hit in the arm on the play, and was holding the elbow as he was helped up by trainers.
The Trojans opened the second half with Andre Heidari's 26-yard field goal to make it 24-7, but Oregon again showed a flash of its usual speedy offense with a quick drive capped by Barner's 10-yard touchdown run.
The Ducks, known for their second half adjustments, couldn't slow USC's momentum and the Trojans scored on the subsequent series with Marc Tyler's 3-yard run. Barkley added a 5-yard scoring pass to Randall Telfer to make it 38-14.
De'Anthony Thomas narrowed it again for the Ducks with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and the Autzen Stadium crowd got back into the game with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
Barner had an 8-yard touchdown run to close the Ducks to within 38-27 with 12:44 left in the game. The Trojans ate a lot of time up with their next series, but Barkley was intercepted by John Boyett, putting the Ducks in business on their own 40. Oregon scored on James' 1-yard run, and the 2-point conversion pass was ruled good after review to make it 38-35.
"I never felt comfortable," Kiffin said. "You can't get comfortable. They're just so explosive."
It was USC's first victory in the state of Oregon since 2005.
USC has one final game, next week against Los Angeles rival UCLA. The league's southern representative in the inaugural Pac-12 championship is still up for grabs between Arizona State, Utah and UCLA.
The Ducks still need only to win at home next week against Oregon State to clinch the Pac-12 North Division.
After the game, coach Chip Kelly was asked if perhaps Oregon's guard was down against the Trojans after a decisive victory over then-No. 3 Stanford last week.
"I didn't feel like it was a hangover. The credit goes to that other team. That's a good football team," said Kelly, who after the game went to the Trojans locker room to congratulate USC assistant Monte Kiffin, Lane's father.
The loss was Chip Kelly's first at Autzen as Oregon's head coach.
There were cheers before the game started when NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and several others showed up on the sidelines. James and Anthony even tossed around a football.
The players have been working out at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., just outside of Portland.
USC (8-2) at Oregon (9-1) Nov. 19, 8:00, ABC
Here’s The Deal … Meet the new Pac-12 boss. Same as the old Pac-10 boss.
Now that Oregon has wrested control of the conference away from Stanford with last week’s resounding victory on the Farm, it’s poised to win a third straight league title, and play in yet another BCS bowl game, likely the Rose Bowl. After taking a backseat to the Cardinal since losing the opener to LSU, the Ducks moved into the driver’s seat by creating five turnovers, producing just enough big plays on offense and generally making Andrew Luck look ordinary.
If the 53-30 throttling wasn’t the most impressive win of 2011 by anyone, it certainly belongs in the discussion. From here, it would take an improbable collapse for No. 4 Oregon not to represent the Pac-12 in Pasadena … or better. Sure, it’s going to take some help, but the Ducks have not given up on a rematch with the Tigers, and a second straight appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
Although it’s happening in somewhat of an NCAA-imposed vacuum, USC has started to emerge from the malaise that came with getting whacked with sanctions in 2010 by the game’s governing body. Head coach Lane Kiffin’s second team in Los Angeles is proving to be far more competitive than the first one. And the timing couldn’t be better. This is the final season that the Trojans will be ineligible for the postseason, including the Pac-12 title game.
If they can build on this fall, and somehow convince QB Matt Barkley to stick around for his senior year, Troy could blossom into a National Championship contender in 2012. It can take a major step in that direction by finishing the year with a four-game winning streak, and victories over Oregon and rival UCLA. Despite the extra hurdles, Kiffin and his staff are gradually turning things around in 2011.
Why USC Might Win: The Barkley-fueled offense can hang with just about anyone in the country. Oh, and Monte Kiffin’s defense isn’t too shabby either.
Barkley has delivered the kind of season that could make it impossible for him not to declare for April’s NFL Draft. One of the nation’s premier distributors has thrown 29 touchdown passes and only six picks on 370 attempts. His precocious receiving tandem of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, though very young, is going to cause fits for the Oregon secondary.
Keeping the Ducks honest will determined runners Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler, who played well in his return from injury last week. The key, however, will be up front, where the Matt Kalil-led line has been sensational at creating holes, and affording Barkley the time he needs in the pocket. If it can neutralize the speed of the Ducks D, USC will surpass its season scoring average of 34 points a game.
Kiffin the elder has done a marvelous job of turning his defense around. Sans the usual star power, the Trojans rank eighth nationally at stopping the run, and have limited four of the last five opponents to no more than 17 points. Troy got to Washington quarterbacks seven times last Saturday, getting non-stop pressure from DE Nick Perry. USC won’t sucker punch Oregon, but it harbors enough quality athletes on defense to prevent it from running away and hiding.
Why Oregon Might Win: You don’t stop a locomotive. And right now, the Ducks are picking up steam as they barrel down the tracks.
Oregon is playing as well as any team in America. Any team. The offense is clicking now that RB LaMichael James is at full strength, and QB Darron Thomas has smoothed out some of his midseason wrinkles. Not since that opener in Arlington, Tex. with LSU has the team been held below 34 points, spreading the field with electrifying playmakers, like James’ backups, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, and receivers Josh Huff and Lavasier Tuinei. Sure, the USC defense has improved, but in the one game of the last five that it bent, it gave up 56 points and 516 yards in the triple-overtime loss to Stanford.
The unsung hero of the nine-game winning streak in Eugene has been coordinator Nick Aliotti’s defense. Oppressive and opportunistic, the unit has been sensational in 2011. Sure, it’s going to allow some yards, but it also leads the Pac-12 in pass efficiency defense and sacks. The Ducks are going to attack from all angles with terrific athletes, such as ends Terrell Turner and Dion Jordan, linebackers Josh Kaddu and Dewitt Stuckey and rover Eddie Pleasant. This is not an Alabama or LSU defense, rather an Oklahoma State-like group that plays the game at a faster tempo than the other guys.
What To Watch Out For: There’s a common thread in USC’s two losses this season to Arizona State and Stanford—the defense was unable to make key stops. If that trend continues, the Trojans are liable to get blown out of Autzen Stadium.
The unit has genuinely played well in the second half, and against diverse offenses, like Notre Dame and Washington. Still, the Ducks are a unique animal, with a penchant for scoring in bunches, and without much need for draining the clock. It’s going to be a particularly big challenge for a green group of USC linebackers to seal the edge, and create traffic in running lanes in order to keep James, Barner and Thomas from exploding through the secondary.
Troy has been using three freshmen, Hayes Pullard, Dion Bailey and Lamar Dawson, on the second level of the defense, which could emerge as a major defensive concern Saturday night.
What Will Happen: Autzen Stadium. Primetime. The smell of roses getting stronger. It’s a bad combination for a visiting team.
When Oregon secures a head of steam, it very rarely slows down. It’s the kind of program that thrives on momentum, and the energy of its home crowd. Plus, knocking USC down a peg is always extra special in these parts. Because of the presence of Barkley, the Trojans will be able to punch with the Ducks, but not for all 60 minutes. At some point, the Quack Attack is going to expose the soft areas of the USC defense that others have failed to exploit. James will continue to soar, and Thomas will work those Trojans linebackers on short throws and crossing patterns to TE David Paulson.
Much like a week ago at Stanford, the dogged Oregon D will rev up in the second half, sheltering the lead with incessant pressure in the pocket and in the secondary. By late Saturday night, there’ll be no doubt who is the king of the hill in this year’s Pac-12.
CFN Prediction: Oregon 44 … USC 28
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Oregon -15 O/U: 67
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