1. Contain the Oregon Running Game
The Ducks have the top rushing offense in the Pac-10 averaging an amazing 294.4 rushing yards a game. Their multi-dimensional quarterback Dennis Dixon and pro-style tailback Jonathan Stewart lead the Ducks running game.
Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon is the most dangerous running quarterback that the Trojans have faced since Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl. Dixon doesn't have the strength of Vince Young, or even Washington's Jack Locker, but he can make defenders miss with his quick feet and overall speed.
Dixon has really developed into a big time playmaker this year in Chip Kelly's spread offense. The Ducks senior quarterback has run for and thrown for a touchdown in every game this season. Dixon is averaging 59.4 yards rushing a game.
Behind Dixon is Oregon's all-everything tailback Jonathan Stewart. Stewart is the key to the Oregon running game that ranks third in the nation in rushing yards per game. He is a classic pro-style back that combines power and speed.
Stewart is coming off an impressive performance against Washington last week. The Ducks junior tailback was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 251 yards and two touchdowns in a 55-34 victory over the Huskies.
On the year Stewart is averaging 134.3 yards a game and has scored 7 touchdowns.
The ducks are 10-1 since the start of the 2006 season when they have a 100-yard rusher. So the Trojans defense is going to have to contain the Oregon running game to have a legitimate chance at escaping Autzen Stadium with a victory.
The good news for USC fans is the Trojans have the best rush defense in the Pac-10 and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.
2. Get the USC Receivers Involved
Trojan fans have come to expect big things from tight end Fred Davis and fullback Stanley Havili in the passing game. But this week the Trojans are going to have to get solid production from the receiving corps to keep the Oregon defense from crowding the line of scrimmage and trying to stuff the run.
The two players that will have a chance to step up are Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton. Turner came into the year as the Trojans top receiver, but to this point he hasn't been the consistent playmaker that the coaches were relying on.
Turner has all the physical tools and has shown signs of being a No.1 receiver but he needs to play with more passion and consistency.
Vidal Hazelton is coming off an impressive performance last week against Notre Dame. He had a team-high 80 receiving yards, including a spectacular 48-yard touchdown against the Irish.
Also look for the Trojans to try and get freshman Ronald Johnson involved in the deep passing game. The Trojans will have to take a couple deep shots early in the game to loosen up the Ducks aggressive defense.
3. Get Sound Special Teams Play
The Trojans and Ducks are two of the best teams in the nation. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 and have great athletes on both sides of the ball. The Trojans have the best defense in the Pac-10, while the Ducks have the best offense.
Often times when two evenly matched teams face each other in a big game, the difference comes down to special teams play.
So far in 2007 the Trojans have been inconsistent on special teams and it has cost them. Against Stanford, the Trojans missed a PAT early in the game and it ended up being the difference in Stanford's 24-23 upset win over USC.
The Trojans have also benefited from good special teams play this year. The best example of the positive impact that special teams can have on a game came when the Trojans faced Arizona earlier this season at the Coliseum.
The USC offense had been in a funk all game and the Trojans were trailing Arizona 13-10 in the fourth quarter. Freshman tailback Joe McKnight then ignited the Trojan offense and the Coliseum crowd with a 45-yard punt return.
On the very next play Mark Sanchez connected with a streaking Fred Davis for a 25-yard touchdown pass giving the Trojans a 17-13 lead. USC went on to win 20-13.
When asked about the special teams play after the game Pete Carroll replied, "That punt return was exciting and just what we needed."
This Saturday the Trojans need to play solid on special teams to help them get a big win over the Ducks and back into national championship contention.