The path to the Rose Bowl is clear for the Ducks but they face a huge test against the Trojans on Saturday.
Rarely has a defeat increased belief in a program in quite the way USC’s loss to Stanford roused the Trojans. After two years of flat-out slumping, USC finally looked like a team capable of hanging with the best in the nation. Matt Barkley has been inspired over the past four games, completing 65 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The junior is quickly building NFL draft hype and a strong performance on Saturday could throw him into the Heisman mix.
Barkley is only part of the story. The success of the USC defense against Washington should offer some hope to Trojans’ fans. The Huskies had run over everyone, including Stanford, prior to their trip to the Coliseum. USC however held them to a total of 46 yards on the ground.
Oregon present a challenge rarely seen by any defense. The LSU Tigers were able to handle the multi-faceted Ducks’ offense by having phenomenal depth on defense. USC can’t count on that kind of substitution strategy. Oregon’s ability to dominate with unbalanced line-ups has overwhelmed most opponents this season.
Oregon’s basic zone-read run game sees three receivers and a tight end line up on the same side. This forces the opposing defense into man coverage on the three receivers or else risk falling prey to a bubble screen pass. The tight end, acting as a sixth blocker, is able to bring the quarterback into the running game. The end result is a multi-threat attack where talents like Darron Thomas and LaMichael James can make otherwise talented defenders look hapless.
College Football betting fans know a Top 5 defense can do enough to halt the Ducks offense but USC simply aren’t on that level yet. There’s also the matter of Oregon’s improving defense. Andrew Luck, a more mature pocket passer than Barkley, had his worst game of the season against one of the most under-rated units in the nation. Indeed I expect it to be Oregon’s defensive performance on Saturday that makes calls for a re-match with LSU to grow louder. Not that the offense will be overshadowed. James, Darron Thomas, and De’Anthony Thomas, are quickly becoming household names for a reason. The Trojans have come a long way but they are about to be baffled by Chip Kelly’s magic.
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