Scouting Report: Oregon

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Round #8: Oregon Ducks

2010 Record: 7-0 (3-0 in the Pac-10)

2009 Record: 10-3 (8-1 in the Pac-10)

Series History: USC leads 37-17-2 (Last meeting: 47-20 Oregon in '09)

Head Coach: Chip Kelly (2nd year)

The second year head coach was Mike Bellotti's offensive coordinator for two years before taking over.  He has created an offensive machine called the "Spead O" behind fast quarterbacks, faster running backs and the fastest play-calling. 

Offensive Players to Watch: QB Darron Thomas (Sophomore, Houston, TX); LaMichael James (Sophomore, Texarkana, TX)

How are these guys not called the "Texas Two-Step"?  Anyway, Thomas was supposed to be the weak link after Jeremiah Masoli sunk the Ducks by getting thrown off the team.  Instead, Thomas has Oregon swimming up the rankings and is now splashing around the Heisman pool.  He has been better at home (280 total yards per game) than on the road (229 yards per game).

James exploded as a freshman last year, including devastating the Trojans D with a 183-yard rushing night at Autzen.  He has breathtaking speed, but he is only 5'9" and 185 pounds, so he is not a physical runner.  After missing the opener, he has topped 120 rush yards in every game, except for Arizona State.  He only has four catches this season.

Defensive Players to Watch: LB Casey Matthews (Senior, Agoura Hills, CA); CB Cliff Harris (Sophomore, Fresno, CA)

The name Matthews lives forever in Trojans' lore.  However, Casey chose a new path and now represents this opportunistic Ducks' defense.  Marc Tyler's Oaks Christian HS teammate has three interceptions and three fumble recoveries as part of an undersized, play-making unit.

Harris proves the Ducks can be explosive even on defense and special teams.  T.J. McDonald's high school mate has five interceptions in his 15 career games, including a pick-six against Tennessee this year.  He's also taken three punts back for touchdowns this season.

Strength: Speed

The Ducks speed is intimidating.  Their "fast-break offense" is confusing and relentless.  When they get momentum, they create a scoring snowball, which turns into a winning avalanche.  If the Trojans are not 100% sound in their gap responsibilities, defensive discipline and tackling, Oregon will embarrass them (see UCLA last Thursday night).  The Ducks have 22 (of 44) TD drives that lasted five plays or less.

Weakness: Size

They are not built to win a fistfight.  If you can slow them down and square them up like Arizona State (forced 11 punts) and Ohio State (last year's Rose Bowl) did, they will get careless with the football and relent.  They do not have a Plan B.  They are built to win one way. 

Oregon Verdict

Amazingly enough, USC will face the #1 team in the nation for the first time since 1992, which is the second longest active drought in Division-1 (Purdue).  They have not conquered #1 since 1984, so this is a special opportunity for a group that has to make its statements during the regular season.

Oregon tends to be slower and sloppier when they are away from the Autzen cauldron.  Plus, they are not used to their lofty perch.  Crazy as it sounds, the Ducks are 7-0 for the first time since 1933!  Nevertheless, they are worthy of the #1 ranking and could be en route their first national championship in school history.

Coach's Take: Here is Joe Barry on the problems that Oregon's offense presents...

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