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Oregon vs. USC Pre-Game Analysis

Previewing this weekend’s matchup between the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans

USC v Oregon Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Week 10 Weekend Matchup: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans at The Coliseum

When: November 5, 2016 at 4 P.M. PT

Vegas Over/Under: USC -17

After losing five straight games, the Oregon Ducks were able to get back on track last Saturday, after defeating Arizona State by a score of 54-35. With that key win, Oregon will only need three more wins to become bowl eligible. But, the Ducks still have a tough task ahead, needing to steal three out of their next four games. That being said, the Ducks will have their hands full this weekend, facing a red-hot USC Trojan team on the road.

USC is coming off an enormous win against California by a score of 45-24. The Trojans have also won their last four games consecutively by dominating fashion. Although they are currently unranked nationally, USC is still having a solid season with an impressive 5-3 record overall (4-2 in Pac-12 Conference, tied for second place in the South Standings).

Overall Oregon and USC have played each other 59 times (two of those games ending in a tie), but the Trojans have the upper hand in the series, winning 37 of those matchups. Both Oregon and USC have some familiarity with each other, after facing off last year, when the Ducks would go on to dominate the Trojans by a score of 48-28. Interestingly enough, this will be the first time since 1997 that the Trojans and Ducks will play each other and both be unranked in the national polls.

So what does each team need to do to come away with a crucial victory?

FOR OREGON: It is no mystery that throughout the season, Oregon has been coming out slow, undisciplined, and digging themselves into a big hole. But, last weekend that seemed to change, giving a glimmer of hope to the Ducks’ fan base. In order to be successful on Saturday, Oregon must get off to a fast start, score early and frequently, limit the amount of penalties, and quiet the Trojan crowd (who are known for causing havoc to opposing teams).

After a near perfect performance against Arizona State (including tying the single game passing record, previously held by Bill Musgrave) Justin Herbert will once again be the head of the Oregon offense, who continues to show improvement every week.

Through three games, Herbert has completed passes 77-121, throwing 996 yards, 12 touchdowns, and two interceptions. In addition, Herbert has had to scramble away from pressure 27 times, running for 89 yards, and one touchdown. Herbert will once again need to have a near perfect game come Saturday.

With Kani Benoit returning last week, the Oregon Ducks had a very impressive showing from the running back core (Tony Brooks-James led with nine carries, gaining 132 yards, and one rushing touchdown).

This weekend, the Ducks will have all their running backs healthy and ready to break out into the open. Expect Royce Freeman, Tony Brooks-James, Taj Griffin, and Kani Benoit to all carry the ball for big yardage.

In addition to the running game, much of Oregon’s offensive production has come through their talented receiving core. After taking over the offense, Herbert, seems to have solid connections with playmakers such as; Darren Carrington, Pharaoh Brown, Charles Nelson, Johnny Mundt, and Jalen Brown (who have all combined for 57 receptions, gaining 774, and nine receiving touchdowns).

Although the Oregon defense had a pretty solid game against Arizona State, they still rank second to last in college football. The challenge for the Ducks’ defense will be holding the Trojans under 500 yards and under 40 points. Look for defensive leaders Ugo Amadi, Troy Dye, and Tyree Robinson to rally the defense and make big plays.

FOR USC: After winning the Pac-12 South last year, but ultimately falling short in the Pac-12 Championship against Stanford, the USC Trojans are looking to take control of their destiny this year. The Trojans will attempt to have another strong game (having averaged 463.6 yards per game) while playing off their home crowd.

After replacing Max Browne as the starting quarterback for Trojans, Sam Darnold has been outstanding. In seven games, Darnold has completed 118-175 of his passes, gaining 1,565 yards, throwing 18 touchdowns, and three interceptions. In addition, Darnold has had to scramble away from pressure 36 times, gaining 149 yards, and two rushing touchdowns.

Another strongpoint in the Trojan’s offense is their running game. Running backs Ronald Jones II and Aca’Cedric Ware have been a force to be reckoned with combining for 150 rushes, gaining 874 yards, and scoring five touchdowns. However, the Trojans second best running back, Justin Davis (74 carries, 476 yards, and two touchdowns) is questionable for Saturday’s matchup.

In addition to their running game, USC’s receiving game is on point. Wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darreus Rogers, and Deontay Burnett have combined for 104 receptions, gaining 1,327 yards, and scoring 13 touchdowns.

The Ducks will need to watch out for punt returner and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson who has been described as the guy you don’t want to punt to, because it is like shooting yourself in the foot. So far this season, Jackson has returned 15 punts for 308 yards and one touchdown.

However, USC will have their hands full facing the Oregon Ducks’ offense (who are ranked ninth nationally). But, the Trojans defense, ranking 50th nationally among all defenses, have been superb this year (only giving up 383.3 yards per game and 24 total touchdowns).

Bottom line, if Oregon comes out fast, maintains an early lead, is better disciplined, and shuts the USC crowd down; they might just come away with an upset.

Prediction: Although Oregon has struggled with slow starts, poor defense, and a lack of discipline; the Ducks will rise to the occasion and come away with a momentous victory by a score of 42-38.

Wrap Up Notes: The Oregon Ducks will not host any official prospective visits this weekend, since they are on the road.