One Great Season
Remove Oregon from the list of unbeaten teams in jeopardy of suffering an upset loss in Week 9.
That's the storyline in college football, that six of the sport's seven perfect squads are on the road this weekend.
For two weeks I've looked toward Oct. 30 as a possible night of redemption for USC, out to avenge last year's blowout loss at Oregon. But the more I read up on this game, the less I think the Trojans, even on their home field, will pull it off.
Nothing against coach Lane Kiffin and his star sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley. And it's hard to imagine defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin won't brew up some new looks with an extra week to prepare. But even still, the Ducks — heard this one before? — simply have far too much firepower.
USC will try to control the tempo by keeping the ball on the ground with backs Allen Bradford, Marc Tyler and Dillon Baxter. No one in Eugene is saying the Trojans lack talented athletes.
But eventually, Oregon will get its offense going as well. And once it does, USC had better be ready for a track meet.
Some see the Ducks' national No. 114 ranking in time of possession as a problem. I would agree if Oregon didn't lead the country in yards (569) and points (55) per game. UO, also ranked third in rushing yards per game (308), is this season's Cincinnati, last year's quick-strike darling that started 12-0 before it fell to Florida in the Sugar Bowl.
If USC wants to throw a wrench into the PAC-10 race, it had better attack its visitors early. Oregon has outscored its opponents 156-23 after halftime. The Ducks have given up seven points in the fourth quarter all season.
And many want to add Barkley to the Heisman conversation. My advice to them: Go ahead and do it. He's certainly deserving of the hype, especially lately. After throwing eight touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his last two games, however, I'd say Barkley might be due for a pick or two against Oregon, which also leads the nation in turnover margin (+1.71).
And do you know who's also on that short Heisman list? Ducks running back LaMichael James, who leads the country with 162 yards rushing per game. USC can keep the ball on the ground all it wants; the fact remains that the Ducks boast a better rushing attack.
Neither team plays fantastic defense, but Oregon's is decisively better. Here are some ranking comparisons to back that claim:
+ Oregon — 37
+ USC — 39
+ Oregon — 51
+ USC — 112
+ Oregon — 12
+ USC — 60
+ Oregon — 30
+ USC — 87
Pass Efficiency Defense:
+ Oregon — 7
+ USC — 89
+ Oregon — 20
+ USC — 51
Tackles For Loss:
+ Oregon — 9
+ USC — 56
So there you have it, a little analysis and some numbers-crunching. I think it's an easy call, actually. Oregon wins it, 38-30.