Published November 20, 2014
USC carried an 8-2 record into this affair, the 10th consecutive season that the program has notched at least eight victories. Because of NCAA sanctions, the Trojans are ineligible for postseason play, and that is a shame for the current group of players because they sit alone atop the Pac-12 South Division standings. Five of the last six outings have resulted in wins for coach Lane Kiffin's group, including two in a row, and the club rolled over Washington by a 40-17 final last time out.
"This has become a big rivalry," said Kiffin after his team beat Washington for the first time in three season. "It's going to be a very competitive rivalry for a long time."
Since losing the season opener to LSU, Oregon has been truly dominant, beating nine consecutive opponents by 14 or more points. The Ducks were in the national spotlight last Saturday against undefeated Stanford on the road, and coach Chip Kelly's team responded with a tremendously impressive 53-30 romp over the Cardinal. Oregon is now the top team in the Pac-12 North, holding the tie-breaker over Stanford.
USC owns a 36-18-2 series lead over Oregon, factoring in a vacated win by the Trojans due to NCAA sanctions.
Taking a look at last weekend's victory over Washington, USC finished with 426 yards, and the ground game accounted for 252 yards at a clip of 6.3 ypc. The Trojans only got one TD pass from Matt Barkley, who tossed a school-record six scoring passes in the previous affair. Fortunately, Curtis McNeal ran for 148 yards and a score, while Barkley and Marc Tyler had rushing TDs as well.
Barkley is one of the elite passers in all of college football, as he has connected on 66.8 percent of his attempts for 2,782 yards and 29 touchdowns with only six interceptions. There is no question that he benefits from the presence of star wideout Robert Woods, who has already hauled in 92 receptions for 1,126 yards and 11 touchdowns. Marquise Lee has eight receiving touchdowns to his credit, and McNeal paces the ground attack with 787 yards and five TDs. USC is generating 34.1 ppg and 444.7 total ypg, and 29 of the 39 offensive scores have been of the passing variety.
Defensively, USC held Washington to 2-of-13 success on third-down conversion attempts last week, impressive to say the least. The Trojans yielded a mere 244 total yards, including 46 rushing yards on 24 attempts. One of the most impressive stats of all from the tilt is that USC logged seven sacks, including 2.5 from Nick Perry.
Opponents are averaging 24.8 ppg and 363.8 total ypg against USC, which has given up 30 touchdowns to opposing offenses. The run defense has been solid, permitting a mere 3.5 ypc, and 14 takeaways have been registered to go along with 23 sacks. Perry has 11 TFL this season, including 7.5 sacks.
Switching focus to Oregon, it is surprising that the team was able to rack up 53 points against Stanford last week considering the Ducks only posted 387 yards of total offense. QB Darron Thomas threw for a modest 155 yards on 11 completions, but he did toss three TD passes and wasn't intercepted in the tilt. Chip Kelly wouldn't have believed that his team could win by 23 points despite making good on only 1-of-9 third-down conversion attempts and losing the time of possession battle by nine minutes, but that was indeed the case. Star tailback LaMichael James was stellar in the win, rushing for 146 yards and three TDs.
Stanford's Andrew Luck is considered the best NFL QB prospect in decades, so the fact that Oregon intercepted him twice and limited him to 256 yards last week is a credit to the Ducks' defenders. They allowed just 5-of-14 third-down conversion attempts to be successful and came up with a total of five takeaways.
Through 10 outings, Oregon is generating 46.7 ppg and 498.3 total ypg, and James is the man who garners most of the headlines. He has rushed for 1,207 yards and 12 TDs despite missing two games and being limited in others. As for Thomas, he has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,704 yards and 22 TDs against five INTs. As a runner, he has posted a pair of scores as well. Keep an eye on Lavasier Tuinei (eight TDs) and De'Anthony Thomas (seven TDs) at receiver.
The Ducks are surrendering 21.7 ppg and 383.9 total ypg to date, and the fact is that the defensive unit doesn't have to be dominant because of the amount of points that James and offense routinely post. Stopping the run has been a strength of Oregon, which is allowing just 3.7 ypc.