Game Of The Week: USC At Oregon
USC (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) at Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12)
November 19 at 5:00 p.m. PT on ABC
USC Players to Watch
QB Matt Barkley #7 - One of the top signal callers in the country, Barkley can make all the throws and is especially adept at escaping pressure and throwing on the move. He can lead a team from behind as well as anyone.
RB Curtis McNeal #22 - Forms an impressive one-two punch in the backfield with team mate Marc Tyler. Undersized but extremely quick and shifty, which allows him to average 7.0 yards per carry. Also a very productive receiver out of the backfield.
DE Devon Kennard #42 - The Trojans are finally playing Kennard as a down DE to best utilize his pass rush skill. He is also a solid run defender and will need to stay disciplined this week in order to slow down the Ducks zone option attack.
DE Nick Perry #8 - One of the more underrated players in the land, Perry is a big time pass rusher and leads the Trojans with 7.5 sacks. Is a relentless type who makes several plays chasing down the football from side to side.
DS Jawanza Starling #29 - The active and aggressive junior will be key in stopping the explosive type plays the Ducks are known for. The former Florida high school star is a vicious hitter who plays with an attitude.
Oregon Players to Watch
DE Dion Jordan #96 - The long limbed 6'7 junior possesses some impressive pass rush moves. His run defense and ability to set the edge will be key in containing Trojan QB Matt Barkley.
OG Carson York #77 - The athletic junior has started 29 games and is a big reason why the Ducks are averaging 291 yards rushing per game. The 300 pounder has impressive footwork and finishes blocks with authority.
OG Mark Asper #79 - The 6'7 325 pound senior has been a mainstay on the Ducks OL while starting 30 straight. Moved inside recently from the right tackle spot to best utilize his run blocking skills. This kid is a load who is light on his feet.
TE David Paulson #42 - The senior TE doesn't get the recognition of other offensive skill players but always seems to come up with clutch catches in big games. He is a sound route runner with very dependable hands.
WR Lavasier Tuinei #80 - The 6'4 senior might not having blazing speed but makes up for it with competitiveness, ability to catch in traffic and downfield blocking skill. He is another clutch performer who gives top effort in every game.
The Ducks have jumped to No. 4 in the BCS rankings after routing previously unbeaten Stanford last week. They average 291 yards rushing per game and their offense seems impossible to stop, especially with explosive playmakers like RB's LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas. The most underrated part of this unit has been the steady play of a big and athletic offensive line. They are smart and play exceptionally well as a unit. A lot of credit goes to longtime offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who is one of the best in the business. This team is dominant and rarely challenged as they have won nine games by an average of 29 points.
The Ducks defense, led by coordinator Nick Aliotti likes to mix up coverages and create confusion like they did versus Stanford and Andrew Luck a week ago. Their defensive line has a lot of depth and stays fresh most of the game and this will be crucial playing against a very talented USC offensive line.
The Trojans have the overall talent to play with any team in the land, but this Oregon offense will pose a major challenge. It is an offense that can easily fool defenders so playing disciplined and not missing tackles in the open field will be key. You can slow them down for awhile but not for long periods of time. Oregon RB LaMichael James is an excellent cutback runner so the Trojan LB's will have to maintain "gap" responsibility at all times. One minor slip up and James is long gone. Another "key" factor for the USC defense will be the secondary's ability to stay "on" coverage and not allow big pass plays off play action fakes. This is where Oregon QB Darron Thomas is extremely underrated and he tends to hit several big plays downfield throughout the game. I think that USC can keep this game close for a half but the way Oregon ran right through Stanford last week I am not sure anybody can stop them. The Trojans can also score big and the Matt Barkley to Robert Woods combination will be huge in deciding the outcome. This should be another Pac-12 dogfight.
Dave Razzano is a former NFL scout with more than 22 years of professional scouting experience with the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals under NFL coaches Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Chuck Knox and Dick Vermeil. He's been a part of five Super Bowls with three Super Bowl wins (49ers, 1989, 1990; Rams, 2000).