Looking ahead to the big matchup this weekend, what would be your ways to shut down the Oregon offense and put points on the Ducks defense?
Trevor Wong, Conquest Chronicles: The best way at shutting down Oregon's offense is keeping them off the field. I know that's a cliché answer, but at this point, I don't see the Trojans' offense keeping up with the Ducks offense enough to the point where USC will match them score for score. And if USC's defense can't get off the field like it rarely did in that second half against Arizona, then that unit will be gassed by the fourth quarter. Considering how the Trojans defensive unit fared against Arizona, I find it difficult to believe they'll find it much easier stopping the Ducks dynamic offense.
Michael Castillo, Reign Of Troy: Defensively, the Trojans have to get to the mesh point. 'Mesh point' is probably going to be trending on twitter this week and it should be. We've seen in the last couple of years that the only way to beat Oregon is with a combination of great play on the defensive line to go along with linebackers that can hem in the Ducks' speed. Auburn did it with Nick Fairley getting in the backfield and last season, the Trojans were able to penetrate and get to the mesh point and distract Darron Thomas with guys like Nick Perry leading the charge. USC has the horses this season with a very underrated and overachieving line, especially with Morgan Breslin. If Breslin and company can get in the backfield and force Mariota to make poor decisions on the zone read, the Trojans can repeat their performance from last year. If not? It'll be a long day.
Offensively, it's simple. Lane Kiffin needs to call a game that distributes the ball across the board to all of his playmakers, while still playing the hot hand. If Lee is hot, use Woods as a decoy and use them both exploit the Ducks secondary and set up the run. If the running game is working, use Silas Redd to open holes and build up for the deep ball or a quick pitches to D.J. Morgan. Kiffin has a propensity to suddenly adopt a run-first mentality when the passing game is chugging along, and vice versa when the run game is working. The Trojans can't make themselves one dimensional on purpose, they need to get both the running and the passing game to work off of each other, which is what they did in late 2011 when they beat Oregon in Eugene.
Josh Webb, Reign Of Troy: You don't shut down Oregon. That's the reality of the situation. Even in games that Oregon has lost & looked out-manned, they have found a way to move the ball and to create offense. If you read the SEC history books, LSU absolutely crushed Oregon and made them their bitch. If you watched the game or knew anything about football, you'd have seen that the Duck defense got after LSU just as frequently, that Oregon has multiple 60+ yard drives, and that Oregon was even running the ball fairly well, given the circumstances. Simply put, you don't stop Oregon.
The best way to beat Oregon is to take the ball out of their hands. Slow, methodical drives that produce points give you the best chance moving forward. Defensively, USC needs to understand that Oregon is going to move the ball. They're going to score touchdowns. If you play to stop Oregon, you're going to lose. You have to play to mitigate the damage. You almost have to employ the Hack-A-Shaq approach to beating Oregon.
Lastly, Mariota is still a freshman. I realize that this kid recovers well and deals with pressure extremely well or Chip wouldn't have handed him the starting gig. That said, he's still prone to mistakes. Rather than trying to force turnovers by jumping routes and going for the strip, the Trojans need to focus on staying disciplined and making Mariota beat himself. Like I mentioned yesterday with Barkley, if you can force Mariota off his comfort reads into lower-percentage throws, you have a chance to beat the Ducks. The key for the Trojan defense will be to find Mariota's life-raft, if you will, and puncture it. They need to shut down his favorite targets and force him into throwing balls he's not comfortable throwing.