This one has been circled on both program's calendars since last year. For Oregon it's the opportunity to redeem itself for its loss to the Trojans in Eugene last year that ended any hope for a national championship opportunity. For USC, it was originally thought to be hurdle #1 in USC's bid to go undefeated and flirt with the national championship in 2012.
Unfortunately, the Trojans got tripped up by Stanford and Arizona ending any BCS intrigue for the Trojans. But, this game is, and will continue to be for a while, the measuring stick for both programs in the new Pac-12. Success in a season will be measured through the outcome of this game. So, they tee it up for what could be the first match up of the season. Maybe.
Editor's Note: For more on Oregon, read a breakdown of how Oregon uses the spread to exploit the inside running game.
1. Stretch, stretch and continue to stretch USC's defense all 53 yards of the field, width-wise.
2. "Confuse" with the Lyerla package - the Colt Lyerla package.
3. Run the offense with a sense of urgency, unlike most of last year's game.
4. Get on blocks and stay on them. USC beat too many blocks and disrupted zone game rhythm last year.
5. Take away the run game early and drop 6/7/8 into the laps of Marquise Lee/Robert Woods rest of the game.
1. TE/RB/uberback #15 Colt Lyerla - left the Arizona State game with leg injury, but is a Swiss Army knife.
2. S #21 Avery Patterson - been a tremendous asset for the Duck defense this season, leads UO with 3 picks.
3. LB #47 Kiko Alonso - similar to Lyerla, banged up a bit during ASU game, but has been star in middle since Rose Bowl.
1. Must establish RB Silas Redd early and often on the ground.
2. When run game clicks, challenge safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson on play action deep downfield.
3. Get off blocks immediately. Trojan DL CANNOT stay locked on blocks or it's over.
4. USC safeties were key last year filling in the alley, have to do it again and have an A+ tackling game.
5. Disrupt the Duck tempo by winning on third down. First downs restart the machine.
1. DE #91 Morgan Breslin - relentless & nasty, JUCO transfer who has been a godsend for the Trojans at DE.
2. C #78 Khaled Holmes - the OLhas struggled to say the least, so Holmes' presence and leadership are key.
3. OLB #10 Hayes Pullard/#18 Dion Bailey - these two must eliminate the perimeter/outside zone run game.
1. USC WR #2 Robert Woods - could end up being first WR off the board if he declares for the NFL Draft
2. Oregon DE/OLB #96 Dion Jordan - versatility, could be 3-4 OLB or 4-3 DE, love his growth this year.
3. USC QB #7 Matt Barkley - intriguing to see how he'll handle improved Oregon D in must win situation
4. USC S #7 T.J. McDonald - will knock you into next week, but that's not always a positive
5. Oregon RB #24 Kenjon Barner - full package although at 192 lb, teams might shy away…that's not smart
6. Oregon DE #66 Taylor Hart - a junior worth watching for either this or a future draft, future 3-4 DE
As with Alabama, I've tried to find the crack in the Oregon armor and it's not easy to find. I would say it's the corners - Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Ololu - but that's not absolutely the truth either. This group, the whole secondary, has gotten better and better and just in time for the biggest test of the year.
USC WR Marquise Lee piled up 345 yards receiving last week and there's no question that he'll have the attention of the Ducks' secondary. But, if Oregon can slow the run game and devote nearly 100% secondary attention to the passing game, Barkley, Lee and Woods will find the passing lanes clogged with Ducks.
The difference in this Oregon defense, overall, is the ability of the front to get some heat on the quarterback. If Dion Jordan, Taylor Hart and company "win" the edge, Barkley could struggle as he did against Stanford. The flip side is that Oregon's offensive line must execute the zone game flawlessly and stay on blocks up front longer than it did last year. If so, the Ducks will move the football at will.
It won't be that easy, but Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and the Ducks will navigate the USC defense as Arizona did last weekend.
Oregon - 38 vs. USC - 28
Again, for more on Oregon, read a breakdown of how Oregon uses the spread to exploit the inside running game.