This week during practice, Nick Holt made a big switch when he decided to bench Everson Griffin and insert Clay Matthews as the starting defensive end opposite Kyle Moore. Matthews brings fire, aggression, and physical play to the position, something that was sorely lacking in Corvallis. Should Matthews play on Saturday like he did against Virginia and Ohio State, SC's D-Line could get right back on track as being the best in the conference.
Rey Maualuga is out this week, so Brian Cushing will be moving over from the strong spot to the middle, giving Mike Morgan the first start of his young career. Morgan's response to playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Coliseum will be monitored closely by coaches and fans alike and is seen as an important storyline for Saturday night.
2) Bring a sense of normalcy back to the running game - Joe McKnight suffered through the worst game of his career last week. As a result, OC Steve Sarkisian must get him the ball in favorable situations so he can get back on track. Sark's strategy has to include putting the ball in McKnight's hands while in space, allowing him to juke and shake his way for continuous first down yardage. McKnight's confidence will soar should he rip off some big gains in the early going. Forget the direct snaps and all that other tricky stuff. That's not SC's game. SC needs to methodically break down the Oregon defense, manage the clock and win the battle for turnovers. The turnover margin will swing their way early if the offense does their part in not turning the ball over. During the first few games of the season, SC's game plan was to dominate on defense and let the offense come into its own. Now, the roles have been reversed and the offense needs to pick the defense up. This all starts with an efficient running game.
3) Play with an all-out intensity - Oregon beat USC at Autzen Stadium last year, effectively putting the final nail into their coffin for the 2007 season. The Trojans are coming off a very disappointing loss last week and naysayers all across the country are hoping they lose two in a row. Fans in the Big 12 and SEC are dying to see it happen. Another loss buries the Trojans and makes it that much easier for teams like Alabama and LSU to stay ahead of them in the rankings. Additionally, teams like Oklahoma and Missouri can coast through their schedules (exactly who has Oklahoma played?) knowing SC has two losses, especially considering they have a championship game to redeem themselves in should they falter. Hypothetically, Florida or Georgia could lose three games in their conference, win the SEC Championship game and advance over a two loss USC team in BCS standings. We've seen this happen before. SC cannot leave it up to the computers to determine their fate. They have to play with an "Us Against the World" mentality and dominate this game for all four quarters to receive the national respect needed to jump ahead in the polls prior to the BCS rankings coming out.
Prediction - Check out Oregon's schedule thus far for the 2008 season: They have blown out arguably the two worst teams in the Pac-10 (Washington and Washington State), come from behind against a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team to win in overtime at Purdue, beat up on a lowly Utah State team, and lose at home to a sound Boise State team that plays in a much inferior conference. By far, USC is the best team Oregon has faced so far this season. In fact, the Trojans may turn out to be the best team Oregon will face all year, but they have to prove that Saturday night. Consequently, USC has to jump all over the Ducks from the onset.