We did a little Q&A with our friends from ATQ...
I love these guys!
Just like our friends at CGB these guys know how to talk trash while being smart...it is the perfect mix! This will be a great game for all the hype and ramifications that come with it!
So, Here we go... (their answers to our questions)
1) Winning cures a lot of ills but it was clear after the loss to Boise St. that many Oregon fans were not happy with Chip Kelly's opening performance. How have you seen him progress this season?
The growth of Chip Kelly has been just as astounding as has the growth of the entire team. The Boise State game was an obvious disaster on every level. The team didn't play with much fire, they didn't make adjustments, and Kelly looked totally out of his league. Add to that Blount's post-game meltdown, and I think any Duck fan would admit that there were some doubts.
But Kelly has totally redeemed himself and then some. He took control, made clear that he was in charge, and has got this team working ridiculously hard. After a couple rocky games, the Ducks have been dominating in the Pac-10 (granted, against the bottom half of the conference). But what is most impressive about Kelly's progression is that he didn't flip out after Boise. He kept working hard, and simply got the team focused. It would have been easy for things to fall apart after Boise, but Kelly did a great job keeping everything under control, and preparing the team each week.
2) Tell us about your defense. Oregon lost 6 starters to the NFL so this is a bit of a no-name crew. Yet they have been stingy. We all know about Casey Matthews and his bloodline but who else should USC be mindful of?
One of the main players to watch on the defense is #58, Kenny Rowe. He's an undersized defensive end, but can play either as a down lineman, or upright. He has been making plays all over the field this year, and is averaging a sack per game. He also has the ability to play like a linebacker in coverage and gets out to the flats very quickly. His versatility has been a huge boon to the Oregon defense.
Another player to watch is #20, free safety John Boyett. Though only a redshirt freshman, he took over for an injured TJ Ward and has been better than Ward, especially in pass coverage, where Ward was below average. Boyett has a knack for playing center field, and already has two interceptions this year.
Lastly, keep your eye out for #3, cornerback Cliff Harris. He's a true freshman (who arrived on campus late due to the NCAA clearinghouse) who has taken over in Walter Thurmond's spot, and though he's young and a bit undersized, he has looked great. He made his first interception (in his first start) last week, and just has a knack for playing cornerback, and has a feel for the game in a way you don't often see. He will definitely be exciting to watch for Duck fans not only this weekend, but for the next 3 1/2 years.
Masoli must accurate, and give Oregon's receivers and tight ends the ability to make plays. Masoli's biggest problem has been accuracy, which hurt him early in the season. He seems to have settled down in Pac-10 play (his 3rd down completion is over 60%), but he has never done well in the rain, so that could prove to be a hindrance to his passing ability. If he can distribute the ball quickly and efficiently through the air, and hit some longer passes, Oregon's offense will be in great shape.
Also, the offensive line simply cannot get manhandled on the line like they were last season. This year's Oregon line is more talented than last, but is also more inexperienced. If Oregon can hold it's own and hold the trench battle to a draw, I like Oregon's chances to move the ball consistently.
When Oregon has the ball, USC will need to get quick pressure on Masoli and get the Ducks into 3rd and long situations, which they have been terrible at this year. Masoli also hasn't looked great when pressured, and has made some bad decisions scrambling. But if he's had time, he's done well.
On the opposite side of the ball, I see USC attempting to push around Oregon's undersized defensive line. The Duck linemen have done an excellent job this year, but have not faced an O-line of USC's caliber. I expect USC to attempt to pound the ball, grind out some clock, and take a few shots downfield on Oregon's young secondary. Oregon's speed is great on the line and at the linebackers, so I don't think USC will be very successful on the edges. But, if USC can run the ball and force Oregon to bring safety help to stop the run, Oregon could be in for a long day, as the young corners will be all alone.
However, if Oregon can limit the USC rushing offense without safety help, Oregon will be able to use it's biggest defensive advantage, versatility. The Ducks have done a tremendous job mixing up blitzes and coverages, and that's been due in large part to the the front 7 being able to hold their own against the run. This really will be the matchup of the game. Oregon was able to shut down the Cal offense effectively this way, and though USC will be much tougher, I expect them to use a similar gameplan.
I think the Ducks have a great chance at winning this game. One thing I've been talking about on Addicted To Quack this week is how this Oregon team has done an excellent job at seizing momentum in games, and all aspects of the team (offense, defense, and special teams) seem to feed off each other.
I expect the matchups in this game to be very close. I think that USC will run the ball well overall, but Oregon will make some plays to limit long drives. I think that USC will do the same to Oregon. But both teams, especially USC, have turned over the ball a good amount this season, and I think that whichever team that can take those turnovers or seize the big opportunities when they present themselves will take the game. As a Duck fan, this makes me think the Ducks will pull it out. We just haven't seen USC really seize a game yet this season. And this isn't a Duck team that the Trojans can let stay in the game, especially at home.
As far as Autzen goes, it will definitely be a madhouse. The hype for this game has been incredible. I was at the Cal game, and the crowd was making noise on almost every play. The noise for this game will be even more intense, and it will be constant. I don't see that affecting Barkley too much as good players rise up in those occasions, but it will not make life for the offense any easier. The stadium will definitely be electric, and will be a great place to be this weekend.
I believe he will be reinstated, and could be as soon as Sunday, and he would then be able to practice with the team and try to earn some playing time against Stanford. He has done an excellent job doing what he need to in order to get his life put back together. Playing time is not guaranteed, so he would have to earn his reps through hard work, but I think he can split time with the emerging LaMichael James and hopefully get drafted next year.
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Good luck guys! But not too much luck!