My work schedule over the past few days has prevented me from doing the type of preview that should be done for a game of this magnitude.
This is a potent offense that has put up 500+ yards and 47 points per game this season and while thats a pretty impressive number it should be noted that a majority of those stats came against Washington, Utah State, Washington State...not exactly powerhouses. They have had a lot of bad luck at QB so far this season so its been their running backs that have done a lot of the heavy lifting.
As noted above, most concerning is the QB situation at Oregon. Projected starter Justin Roper went down with a knee injury against Purdue and it was thought that he would be back for this weekend’s game against SC but then he missed practice earlier this week with what described as the flu. That puts Jeremiah Masoli at the helm.
He’s another quarterback who is too short and not athletic enough to challenge a good defense, but he may as well be Tom Brady as far as the Trojans are concerned. They’ve had so much trouble with quarterbacks who have no business beating them and Masoli is no exception. It’s a good bet that the Oregon coaches won’t ask Masoli to sit back and throw the ball 40 times.
It has been interesting that SC always seems to have trouble with no-name, under sized, overachieving quarterbacks. The question is will they get it locked in and let it happen again on Saturday?
Seeing that Oregon probably won't ask a lot out of Masoli that means that the Ducks will put the ball into the hands of running backs Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount. This is Oregon's version of "Thunder and Lighning".
Here's a preview...
Johnson – injured his shoulder against Utah State, but came back the following game and rushed 17 times for 96 yards against Purdue. Quicker of the two, but can still go inside and isn’t afraid to get physical. Loves to use the stiff arm.
Blount – team leader in rushing attempts (66), yards (481) and touchdowns (8). Put together four-straight games with tremendous numbers on the ground. 132 yards and two touchdowns against Utah State... Great blend of power and speed, elusive enough to get outside and athletic enough to author three different hurdles over defenders this season.
To me this is their whole game plan...pound, pound, pound and with how SC looked last week up in Corvallis you this is going to be how the Ducks will try to attack SC early and often. Oregon always gets up for this game and Johnson & Blount are already fired up as they talked a little smack earlier in the week.
Oregon tailbacks LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson can’t wait to test USC’s run defense Saturday in the Coliseum.
They watched Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers, a 5-foot-7, 193-pound freshman, pierce the then-top-ranked Trojans for 186 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 27-21 upset.
"If a little guy can have 37 carries and 180-something yards, I’m expecting both of us could bust for probably 100-something apiece," said Blount, a 6-2, 240-pound junior. "They’ve just got to give us the ball."
Well we shall see. Part of SC's problem aside from just getting pounded on the line against OSU was their inability grab the short and mobile Rodgers. Johnson and Blount do not fit that mold nor does Oregon use the blocking schemes that OSU did. What Oregon does do is use the zone-read/triple option type offense that also relies on a lot misdirection and finesse.This scheme also gives a big advantage to the Oregon offensive line led by center Max Unger at center. Fenuki Tupou (brother of Trojan, Christian Tupou) is also a player to watch out for as he is becoming one of the Pac-10's best left tackles.
If SC doesn't get dominated off the line and read the way the play develops it could a bit of a long day for both Johnson and Blount. But SC must stand their ground in the trenches, stay at home/not over run the play and make solid tackles if they are to win this battle. this is all going to be up to Cushing plugging up the middle and containing the run. First time starter MIke Morgan is going to be tested right out of the gate to see how effective he can be in his first real game action. He needs to keep his cool and not let the first game jitters get the better of him. Cush Is going to really have to relay on his leadership skills to keep everyones head screwed on straight.
SC is going to have to be patient at defending this scheme, if they have trouble countering it it will give their receivers a little bit more room to operate to get down field. Don't be surprised if you Oregon take advantage of SC's soft coverage underneath just like we have seen so many times before. They will try to use quick throws, screens and end arounds to make big plays they will aslo try to use the quick slant for big yards.
Also don't forget about TE Ed Dickson, he is tied for the team lead for most catches on the team and can be very effective at his blocking schemes. The passing game has denfinitely thrived due to the success of the running game but the USC secondary is a bit of a different animal than what they seen in the past.
The Oregon defense lays a similar "bend, don't break" type of defesnse. The USC offensive line is again going to tested but this time the talent is significantly better than what they saw against OSU. This is a fast and athletic defesive line for the Ducks. Look for a bit of a reunion of sorts betwen Mark Sanchez and DE Nick Reed Sanchez's team mate for high school. The one thing to watch for will be linebackers Spencer Paysinger and Jerome Boyd but if they are too committed to the run it could make Oregon more vulnerable to the pass. Havili is going to be key as his blocking here he is going to be needed to help open up some lanes on the ground while getting the LB's to commit or get forced into one-on-one pass coverage.
As great as the Oregon front four are their LB's are ok and really play like safeties trying to stuff the run. The real stregnth is Oregon's secondary but as noted above they can be vunerable to the pass if they caught in man coverage. Their corners are speedy and physical but if Sanchez has some time he should be able to pick them apart with Williams and Turner. Speedy RoJo is going to get some touches too so that may be a new wrinkle that Oregon's DB's have to be mindful of.
The key to SC's game plan will keeping an eye on "Rover" Patrick Chung. He doesn't play a tradional safety position so you never know where he is going to pop up on the field. It's pretty simple to me, contain Chung and SC should win the battles against their defense. I say throw it early and often challenge the secondary which has been lit up a bit this year. Challenge their LB's to fall into pass coverage. Probe them with the run...make it a power running game no rinky-dink plays. If they try to stuff the box then pt it up.
Here is Belotti's take on Mason & Ireland...
Here is Belotti on Petros & Money...
I know a lot of the pundits seem to think that SC will win this game handily and that Mark Sanchez is more prepared this time around against Oregon versus last year and even though the line is around 16 I am not at all convinced that SC will cover...If SC wins it will be by a touchdown or less in my eyes. Last week left such a bitter taste in my mouth that SC is going to have to have a very convincing/dominating win to make me feel comfortable about any games going forward.