The quarterback soap opera in Eugene is finally over and Vernon Adams has made his case to remain as the field general. Since Adams has returned from a hand injury, the Ducks are 4-0 and finally back into the top 25. Oregon's offense has been explosive in the last four games averaging over 530 yards a game including a 777-yard performance against Cal two weeks ago. Oregon is not the same team we've witnessed fall at the hands of Utah and Washington State and they certainly proved that when they defeated Stanford last weekend. However, a familiar rivalry stands in their way, one that has a similar destiny in the Pac-12.
Is It Possible To Contain The Run?
Oregon's offense is loaded with so much talent that everyone needs to be accounted for. Oregon likes to get the party started and their DJ is sophomore running back Royce Freeman. Freeman is a key contributor to the offense that is #4 in the nation in rushing with 299 yards/game. Freeman's ability to burst through the hole or beat defenders around the corner allows his offensive line and receivers to hold their blocks for a short period of time. Freeman is helped by the read option and the freedom Vernon Adams has to give it to anyone. Freeman will lead all rushers coming into this game with 1,392 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 6.6 yards per carry.
True Freshman Taj Griffin will be eager to get in the mix as well, showcasing speed and a need for getting outside his defenders. Griffin has rushed for 437 yards on 59 carries and has really stepped up since senior wide receiver Byron Marshall's season ending injury. Despite the unfortunate loss of linebackers Cameron Smith and Lamar Dawson, USC will test this rushing offense with a defense that have given up only 118.2 yard average in their four game winning streak.
Adams and The Passing Game
Vernon Adams has finally settled down found his zone in Oregon's air strike. After a 28.6 completion percentage against Utah, Adams has completed at least 56% of his passes including an 83.3% completion percentage. Adam's 4-0 winning streak has also presented him with a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio, along with 1,673 yards on the season. Adams success has come with plenty of explosive plays, especially from junior wide receiver Bralon Addison.
The 5-10 190lb speedster is a weapon in space or will make his own, torching corners for 564 yards and six touchdowns this year. Addsion is joined by three other receivers that can make plays, including Dwayne Carrington, who has 398 yards and four touchdowns on 16 receptions. Royce Freeman is also critical in the passing game and will be looking forward to being one on one with linebackers throughout the game (19rec 224yards and 2td). USC will have to tighten up on the passing game to keep the offense one-dimensional and make Oregon slow down.
Oregon's Newly Found Defense
The Oregon's defense has gone from abysmal to "I can win with that" in the span of four games. In the Duck's winning streak, they have given up 34 points a game after giving up 38 in the first six. However, Oregon is still not clicking on all levels as they have given up 938 yards in the last two games. Oregon's success came off of three key turnovers against Stanford, forcing two fumbles and an interception. This defense still has problems of their own as they rank 125th in pass defense and 75th against the run.
If the Trojans want to take this game in Autzen stadium JuJu Smith and Ronald Jones II will have to produce career high performances. Kessler needs to have a 350-yard game with multiple scores and Adoree has to get the ball more. Justin Davis has the ability to dominate an Oregon's front seven that has trouble holding their gaps up front. When USC can effectively run the ball like they did against Arizona, Oregon will find themselves in more man coverage and that can lead to explosive plays through the air. This game will hold a lot at stake and whoever flinches first, can possibly be who loses the game and their future in the Pac-12 championships.