Week 10 – Oregon at USC
USC WR Marqise Lee
Week 10 Fearless Predictions & Game Analysis - Oregon at USC
Oregon (8-0) at USC (6-2) Nov. 3, 7:00, FOX
Here's The Deal: It has been a foregone conclusion since the offseason that this showdown was just going to be Round One. Of course Oregon was going to roll through the North on the way to its second straight Pac-12 championship appearance, and of course, USC was going to be the class of the South with its dizzying array of offensive weapons and athletes on defense. Oregon has held up its end of the bargain, but unless the Trojans come up with something different, something special, this could be the only time these two square off.
USC has been sleepy. The offense has cranked out brilliant numbers at times, but it hasn't been consistent and it hadn't applied its foot on the gas pedal for a full four quarters all season long. The defense has carried the team here and there, but it fell apart last week in the loss to Arizona, and was flattened by a more physical Stanford team in the September loss.
Basically, it's time for USC to play like it's supposed to, because if it doesn't, it's going to get embarrassed in ugly, ugly fashion.
Oregon has been a machine. There hasn't been a letdown. There hasn't been a hiccup. There hasn't been any moment yet this season when the team didn't appear to be in complete and total control. How many times have the Ducks shown mercy on their opponents? How unbelievable has the team been in all phases?
- Oregon started out the season getting up 50-3 on an Arkansas State team that's likely going to be bowling.
- Fresno State appeared to put up a fight on the scoreboard, but that's only after going into the locker room down 35-3 in the 42-25 loss.
- The Arizona team that just came off the big win over USC got shut out 49-0.
- Washington State hung around for a half, but was hit by a 28-point run in the second half before scoring a meaningless late touchdown to make the 56-21 score seem a bit better.
- Halftime: Oregon 35, Washington 7; Oregon 43, Arizona State 7; Oregon 56, Colorado 7.
But there's still the argument that the schedule has been way too light. Oh sure, Arizona has improved, Arizona State is okay, and Washington might be fine, but the BCS computers aren't impressed in any way, dragging the overall ranking down to No. 4 despite both human polls putting the Ducks up at two.
With three games in the final four, including interesting battles at Stanford and Oregon State, and with the Pac-12 championship to come if all goes well, Oregon is going to be tested and it's going to be pushed. It can't impress any more than it already has – the humans will never rank the Ducks higher than an unbeaten Alabama – so all it can do is keep on winning and hope it all works out.
For USC, this is the shot at legitimacy. The entire season doesn't hinge on this one game, but it's close. With three of the final four games at home, and with showdowns against Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame coming up, the Trojans still control their own destiny in the conference title chase and would likely get an at-large BCS bid if they go 10-2 and lose the Pac-12 championship.
Can Lane Kiffin and the Trojans get past the criticism and perform? Can Oregon firmly establish itself as a rock-solid national title contender? Even if this is the first game of two, it's the showdown everyone has been waiting for.
Why Oregon Might Win: The Ducks have a defense, too. The offense gets all the publicity and all the credit, and it should, with an attack that leads the nation in scoring despite only trying half the time. But it also takes a defense to turn the games into blowouts, and Oregon is doing its part. The pass rush has been suffocating at times, destroying Arizona State and Washington State, while the defensive front blew up play after play against Colorado last week with a whopping 11 tackles for loss. USC hasn't faced too many defenses with the aggressiveness and the ability to disrupt plays before they start, but Utah was able to cause some problems early on and Stanford blew things up with four sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Get to Matt Barkley, and the USC offense shuts down.
One of the only problems for Oregon this year has been penalties, committing close to eight a game getting pushed back 71 yards per time. It's been a steady stream of flag, getting nailed seven or more times in every game but once, committing six against Washington State. That's not a concern this week, because as bad as the Ducks have been, USC has been far, far worse, ranking dead last in America with a ridiculous 10.25 penalties per game – no one else is committing more than 8.5, except for FIU, who's getting flagged 8.65 times per game – for a whopping 84.6 yards. It's not getting any better with ten or more in each of the last four games and 13 for 117 yards against Arizona. Throw in the five turnovers, and it wasn't exactly the most focused effort. Against Oregon, USC can't make any errors, but that doesn't seem possible.
Why USC Might Win: How do you stop the Oregon offense? 1) Get into the backfield and stop the plays before they start, and 2) have a smart, athletic linebacking corps. Few teams are better at getting behind the line, and USC's linebackers are among the fastest and most athletic in college football.
USC's defense has a problem with power, getting pushed around by Stanford, and yes, it had a big problem with Arizona's ground game last week giving up 100-yard days to Ka'Deem Carey and quarterback Matt Scott, but it only allowed 219 yards and didn't give up a run longer than 15 yards. For all of USC's flakiness and all the issues, the defensive front should be able to fly into the Oregon backfield early and often, and the linebackers should be able to swarm around Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas on the outside. Oregon might have an efficient passing game, but as history has shown, Oregon isn't Oregon in the biggest of the big games if it's not running the ball well.
What To Watch Out For: Is it time to start putting Barner in the Heisman race? There are several big play stars on both sides of the ball for the Ducks, but it's Barner who's the consistent, steady force who's ripping apart defenses early on. With 974 yards and 14 rushing scores, averaging close to seven yards per dash, he has been able to crank out big numbers in bunches. Last year he took off for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Trojans, and he might need a repeat performance for the Ducks to get by.
If it's time for Barner to be in the Heisman race, then what about USC receiver Marqise Lee? The sophomore took a little bit of a backseat to Robert Woods last season, but he was his own man against Oregon catching eight passes for 187 yard and a score. Dominant this season, he has already passed last year's total of 73 grabs with 76, highlighted by a phenomenal 16-catch, 345-yard, two-score day against Arizona last week. Meanwhile, Woods is doing his part, catching nine passes against Arizona after scoring four times the week before against Colorado.
What Will Happen: Last week, Georgia played like a team that had all it could stand, and it wasn't going to take it anymore. It might not have been sharp, but the defense played up to its talent and the team changed up the season with its big win over Florida. Is USC able and capable of flipping the switch the same way? The defense has already been fine, but it's the entire team that has to be more consistent and focused; it's not necessarily an energy problem. Oregon has been razor-sharp, but can the precision of the offense handle the speed of the USC defensive front? Yes, but Matt Barkley will come up with a big, big, day to offset a great performance by Barner and the ground attack.
CFN Prediction: USC 38 … Oregon 34
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Oregon -8 O/U: 70
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Man With The Iron Fists, 1 – Election coverage until Tuesday morning): 5
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