Admiring the USC Stars

The Oregon Ducks are 7-0 for the season, 4-0 in Pac-10 play and are the No. 2 ranked team in the BCS standings. This week the Ducks travel to the No. 24 ranked Trojans of USC in a game that has all the nation's eyes on a game that could help the Ducks salt away their second straight Pac-10 title. Listening to Chip Kelly though, one would have to wonder if the Ducks stand a chance.

"I think they are really good," said Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly during his Tuesday media conference of the USC Trojans. "They are really, really athletic. They played outstanding in their last game against Cal."

Of course, folks are going to notice that the tables are turned around this year. The Trojans don't have a BCS ranking because of NCAA sanctions preventing them from going to a bowl game this year or next, but that probably isn't the biggest thing that is catching everyone's attention because of the irony. Oregon is also the No. 1 team in the country in both the AP and USA Today/Coaches' polls. So for the first time since 1991, a No. 1 team in the country that is not USC is appearing in the LA Coliseum for a Trojan football game.

Kelly though isn't talking about rankings, BCS or otherwise, he's focusing solely on USC and the Trojans' amazing assortment of talent.

"In their 2-deep of 44 players, they have 12 five-star recruits and 26 four-star recruits," Kelly exclaimed. "I don't know of anybody in the country that has that (much). When I keep hearing that USC is down in talent, we have zero 5-stars in our top 44 and 11 four-star recruits."

From the sound of things this could be a nightmare in the making for Oregon. Sure there has been a lot of talk about how for three straight weeks the No. 1 team in the country has been knocked off. So perhaps it is fortuitous that the Ducks are No. 2 in the BCS ranking due to some unexplainable computer cogitation that none of us understand. That might, maybe, well perhaps cut down on the hyperbole that is going to surround this Saturday‘s pre-game festivities. ESPN's GameDay is going to be airing and no doubt the topic of "will No. 1 be knocked off for a fourth week in a row?" be brought up.

Kelly doesn't care.

What about the twitter exchanges between USC and Oregon players where the outcome of the game was going to be similar to the outcome of the Ultimate Fighting Championship between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez (Valasquez won)? Isn't that bulletin board material?

"Everything is digital in our lockerroom," replied Kelly to the question of controversial comments that can be used to fire his team up.

"I don't care what other people say," Kelly expanded on the subject of bulletin board material. " I've said all along that we don't run our program because of outside influences. I think that is high stuff to be honest with you."

The fact that everything in the Ducks' facilities is cutting edge should not be overlooked. It does make one wonder though how Kelly would say his team only has 16 four-star players and what difference that really makes when this same Duck team destroyed USC last year at Autzen Stadium 47-20. USC still had the big advantage of four and five-star players then too. In fact UCLA, the team Oregon smashed last Thursday night 60-13, has more four and five-star players than Oregon. One could probably make a case that Tennessee, the team USC's current coach Lane Kiffin coached last year has more four and five-stars than Oregon. Oregon beat the Vols 48-13.

One of the players on USC's roster that has Kelly's full attention is quarterback Matt Barkley. The former 5-star quarterback started out strong as a true freshman but had some road bumps last year, like the Oregon game. This year though he's thrown for 1,869 yards and 20 touchdowns. Last week, after his performance against California, Barkley was named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week for throwing five touchdowns in a 48-14 win over the Bears.

"He's got a lot of confidence," remarked Kelly about Barkley. "He certainly has some outside weapons Robert Woods and Ronald Johnson to throw the ball to."

More of the four and five-star recruits. Woods was a 5-star and was the No.1 player at the wide receiver position two years ago out of high school. So far this season, Woods has 32 catches for 515 yards and six touchdowns. Johnson was a 5-star cornerback out of high school and has 39 catches for 464 yards and seven touchdowns. Kelly also mentioned another USC 5-star, Allen Bradford, who is now a running back even though out of high school he was recruited as a linebacker. Bradford is USC's leading rusher with 560 yards on 73 carries and four touchdowns.

To counter all that onslaught, Oregon will have to rely on a former 2-star (turned 3-star) running back named LaMichael James, who is leading the country in rushing at a 168.1-yard per game pace with 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Darron Thomas was a 4-star signal caller out of high school and has steadily improved over the season and has thrown for 1,539 yards and 17 touchdowns. His leading receiver is former 2-star recruit Jeffery Maehl, who has 39 catches for 530 and six touchdowns. Drew Davis, a 4-star receiver, is second on the Ducks receiving statistical list with 24 catches for 233 yards and a touchdown.

An interesting point also that Kelly piped in USC's fight song, Fight On, during practice. He indicated he also piped in Rocky Top prior to the Tennessee game. He did it in order for the players to become accustomed to the songs being played over and over. Will that tactic work? Hard to say because at Tennessee the band didn't have much to play about. So it remains to be seen this Saturday how the tactic will work in the upcoming contest.

One other topic that has popped up for Kelly is the pace and tempo the Ducks play at, like how long did it take for the Ducks to reach that overdrive pace that makes Oregon look like it is transforming the game by football's version of the fast break. The coach thinks this team is a little faster than last year's version. So by reasonable deduction, Kelly has been at Oregon going into his fourth season, two as the offensive coordinator and now his second year as head coach.

Can a team with all those four and five-star players pick up the pace and tempo in a much shorter time than the Ducks did?

One last question was asked Kelly and that is about a team coming off a bye-week. Kelly indicated that "the Pac-10 is .500 after a bye week." He went on to suggest that if a coach who loses after a bye week is asked the same question it will be pointed out that the team lost momentum, if they win then the bye was helpful. According to Kelly most coaches use the bye-week to go out recruiting. Kelly pointed out that during Oregon's bye-week before the UCLA game that most of his coaching staff was out on the road leaving he and some grad assistants to run practices.

Over and over during Kelly's media conference he pointed out just how much talent the Trojans have and that brings up an obvious question, if USC is the most talented team in the Pac-10, then why is its record 5-2 and 2-2 in the Pac-10 race?

Well, no one asked Kelly that question, so it will remain behind the nondescript expression that was on Kelly's face when he talked about all those star ratings.

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