Whitney Blaine, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer and Reporter
-This Team is Just Plain Good. Really, Really Good.
Looking past their 9-1 record and perfect season in Pac-12 play, there is a reason why the Trojans should be worried come Saturday. It's not just because of playmakers like De'Anthony Thomas or LaMichael James, either, although both help.
For those who haven't watched many of Oregon's games--which is hard to believe because they're almost always on national television--the Ducks' don't just have a strong offense.
Their defensive line is tied for fifth in the nation in sacks. Their punter, Jackson Rice, is averaging 46.8 yards a punt, tied for third in the nation and leading the conference. Rice has placed 14 punts inside the 20-yard line. Safety John Boyett has 65 tackles through nine games, just four behind USC freshman linebacker Dion Bailey.
Okay so let's talk about their offense. We could avoid it-- but we really can't. The team has put up an average of 51.8 points a game on opponents. Even UO's freshman tight end Colt Lyerla has been productive this season--all three of his receptions this season have resulted in a touchdown. While a 1:1 reception to touchdown ratio is really something, Lyerla is nowhere near the Ducks' best playmaker.
While Lane Kiffin said he's not focusing on individual Ducks like James, Thomas or quarterback Darron Thomas, those three have been pivotal scoring options all season long.
Like USC, Oregon has superior athletes. James leads the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards, Thomas leads the nation in touchdowns by a freshman--scoring out of both the backfield and downfield. Running back Kenjon Barner is a third option, and isn't a bad one at that: Barner has had eight rushing touchdowns and ran for more than 600 yards this season.
USC will not only have to play its best game, they have to hope Oregon will play one of its worst. One thing is for certain, five-star athletes will be flooding the field in Autzen and it's sure to be a high-scoring affair full of top-level play from both sides.
Dan Greenspan, SCPlaybook.com Beat Writer and Reporter
-Homefield Advantage at Autzen
.The best way to describe the decibel level at Autzen Stadium is having a jet engine operating at full power held over your head for three hours. It's an SEC stadium in everything but capacity, location, and number of empty liquor bottles hurled at the opposing team.
That creates two dramatic advantages for the hometown Ducks. First, that wall of sound makes life impossible for the opposing offense and more specifically an offensive line. Second, it all but assures the spineless Pac-12 officials will call every penalty possible, real or imagined, on the visitors.
Look no further than last season as Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu was blasted by a helmet to helmet hit and fumbled with the ball returned to the Cardinal 3-yard line, starting an avalanche as Oregon ran off the final 21 points in a 52-31 win that was the difference in the Pac-10 championship race. Looking for a flag? No chance.
The Autzen advantage demands that USC play a composed and disciplined game, something it couldn't do in its 43-22 loss at Arizona State. The Trojans had a season-high 87 penalty yards at that game, including three critical personal fouls against safety T.J. McDonald.
Breakdowns like that are what can put a team-- even one as talented as USC-- in an insurmountable hole.
As for the crowd noise, the young offensive line has improved by leaps and bounds since the debacle in the desert. Still, they will have to be at their best to keep quarterback Matt Barkley upright against a tenacious Oregon pass rush and avoid the false starts that can doom even a truly gifted talented offensive attack.