USC (7-3) vs. Oregon (7-3) 7:30 pm
Both teams have four game winning streaks entering this game. In USC’s last four wins over Utah, CAL, Arizona and Colorado-the Trojans have allowed 83 rushing yards per game (Utah 99, CAL 117, Arizona 60 and Colorado 59). In Oregon’s last four wins over Washington, Arizona State, CAL and Stanford-the Ducks have rushed for 265 yards per game (170 vs. Wash., 184 vs. ASU, 477 vs. CAL and 231 vs. Stanford).
Offensively, the Trojans have been hitting on all cylinders during the team’s four game winning streak and are averaging 36.4 points per game. Led by quarterback Cody Kessler, the offensive attack has been very balanced rushing for 169 yards per game and passing for 295 yards per game. Kessler is completing 68.7% of his passes for 2,715 yards with 23 touchdowns along with 8 interceptions and will look to attack a suspect Ducks secondary this weekend. The Trojans have had solid line play over the four game stretch and will look to stretch Oregon vertically early on with wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Adoree’ Jackson. Smith-Schuster leads the team with 63 receptions for 1,160 yards with 10 touchdowns while Jackson is second on the team with 24 receptions for 382 yards with 2 scores. USC should be very aggressive early in attacking the Ducks secondary which could open up the running lanes for running backs Ronald Jones and Justin Davis later in the game. Jones has great vision in finding open running lanes and has the speed to catch the edge of the Ducks defense. Davis has been utilized between the tackles and a tough inside runner that is very difficult to bring down with one tackler. Both players have combined for 1,276 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground. In order for the Trojans to get the victory on Saturday, the team will need to utilize the intermediate to deep passing game and must take chances early on over the top of the secondary to loosen up the Oregon front seven. Look for USC to incorporate the screen game into the game plan to neutralize the Oregon pass rush and take the pressure off of the offensive line.
Defensively, the Trojans have been playing physical football and have been very opportunistic in creating turnovers during the four game winning streak. On the season, USC is +10 in turnover margin and is +4 in turnover margin on the road this year. The Trojans are allowing 22.7 points per game and have yielded 134 rushing yards per game along with 251 passing yards per game. Through 10 games this season, the Trojans have recorded 29 sacks with linebacker Su’a Cravens leading the team with 5.5 total sacks. The linebackers will be the key to the victory on Saturday and they will need to stay disciplined against the Ducks rushing attack. Oregon likes to run sideline to sideline on fly sweeps and then runs off tackle when the defense over commits. Freshman linebacker Cameron Smith will need a big game against the run on Saturday night and he leads the team with 78 total tackles. USC must be able to force third down and long situations against the Ducks. USC must be able to keep Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams inside the pocket and force him to inflatable water slide read coverage. USC has been playing very well against the run and must force Adams to beat their secondary over the top.
Oregon is averaging 41.8 points per game and is coming off a 38-36 victory over the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto. The team has had a run first mentality and is averaging 297 yards per game on the ground this season. The success in the running game has opened up the play action passing attack for quarterback Vernon Adams. On the season, Oregon is passing for 235 yards per game with Adams completing 60.5% of his passes for 1,673 yards with 16 touchdowns along with 5 interceptions. Adams is a dual threat quarterback that has had great success when he breaks contain outside the pocket. Adams has been more consistent after coming off of a finger injury and has looked more comfortable running the Ducks offense as the season has progressed. In order for the Ducks to get the victory, the team must be able to run the football against the Trojans. Oregon likes to utilize different formations to get their players in space to create one on one matchups against opposing defenses. Running back Royce Freeman is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed for a team leading 1,392 yards with 12 touchdowns. Freeman is a big back who is able to get to the second level of the defense and has the speed to take it to the house every time he touches the football. When Oregon has success running the football opposing defenses “creep” up in run support which opens up the deep play action passing attack for wide receiver Bralon Addison. Addison leads the team with 45 receptions for 564 yards with 6 touchdowns and is a fast receiver that can put pressure on USC’s secondary.
Defensively, the Ducks have relied on outscoring teams this season and are giving up 37.1 points per game. The Ducks have allowed 173 rushing yards per game along with 317 passing yards per game and must be able to force USC to methodically work down the field on Saturday night. Oregon is allowing their opponents convert on 44% of their 3rd down opportunities and must do a better job against USC. While the team is +5 in turnover margin on the year at home the Ducks are even in turnover margin. In order to b eat USC Oregon must be able to win the turnover battle and give their offense field position against a tough USC defense. Oregon must be able to get pressure on Kessler and disrupt the pocket to create errant throws. On the year, the Ducks have recorded 29 sacks with defensive lineman DeForest Buckner leading the team with 7.5 total sacks. Look for Oregon to play zone early on and force Kessler to find holes in the coverage. If Oregon gambles early on with man to man coverage and blitzing Kessler, it could allow deep balls over the top of their secondary which could force their offense to come from behind. Linebacker Joe Walker is having a solid season for the team and registered 67 total tackles which leads the team.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: