USC hopes there's some way to slow 'Blur'

The return of several defenders from injury and an extra week to prepare still might not be enough for USC to slow down prolific Oregon offense.

Las Vegas sports books have set the over/under for Saturday's game between USC and No. 1 Oregon at 72, a shockingly low total given how prolific these two offenses have been this season.

The Trojans have scored an average of 41 points per game in conference play. Quarterback Matt Barkley hasn't thrown an interception in his last three games, while receiver Robert Woods has been on the receiving end of five of Barkley's eight touchdown passes in the last two.

And then there's the Ducks.

By almost every measurable standard, the offense directed by second-year head coach Chip Kelly has been unstoppable. The shotgun-based read-option attack, dubbed the "blur" by some, leads the nation in scoring and total offense despite rarely holding the ball for more than 27 minutes a game.

New quarterback Darron Thomas is third in the conference in passing efficiency. Running back LaMichael James leads the nation is rushing and trails only Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton in most Heisman Trophy straw polls.

That's what USC (5-2, 2-2 Pac-10) has to stop (5:12 pm, ABC).

"Coach Kelly's done a great job," linebackers coach Joe Barry said. "He has an unbelievable system of offense. They have some amazing athletes running that offense. You can come up with rules, you can come up with certain keys, how to defend it. But the X-factor in this is the tempo, the style in which they play."

Oh, sorry. Forgot about that.

Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-10) runs opponents ragged by pushing the tempo to unprecedented levels.

The Wall Street Journal calculated the amount of time to takes to start the next play after the previous one ended. The average is 34 seconds. The Ducks are 32 percent faster, running plays every 23.2 seconds.

"It changes everything," Barry said. "The entire tempo of this game changes. But as far as the communication on how we get the ball, that's not going to change. We're just going to have to be a hell of a lot faster. The way we make the call and get the call in to the 11 guys on the field, that's not going to change. It's just got to be done in a faster fashion."

That doesn't bode well for the Trojans, who have already proven vulnerable to spread offenses like Hawaii and Washington, struggling to tackle in space and looking run down because of limited numbers.

Backups and walk-ons might be asked to see significant reps, if only to keep starters somewhat fresh.

"We're going to try to play more guys than normal and we're going to need some people that haven't really played that much or made significant plays to step up for us," USC coach Lane Kiffin said. "We can't leave our main guys out there the whole time. They just play too fast and too many snaps."

Defensive end Wes Horton (back) and linebacker Malcolm Smith (ankle) should return from injury, while the bye allowed others like defensive end Nick Perry to rest nagging ailments.

The biggest advantage of that open week could be the chance to prepare for this fast-break offense, which for all its high-tech innovations – including the expected debut of silver cleats – is still based on the principles of the option.

"What people lose track of is, this is an option offense, no different than back in the day with the triple-veer option," Barry said. "And when you defend option, you have to play responsibility football. You have to have somebody on the dive, you have to have somebody on the quarterback, you have to have somebody on the pitch. If one guy's off, they're good enough that they're going to make you pay for it.

"It's responsibility football this week, no doubt about it."


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