2015 Game 11: USC vs. Oregon

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No. 24 USC Trojans at No. 23 Oregon Ducks

Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon, at 12:30 p.m. PT on ESPN and WatchESPN

Freeman-O.jpgDuck to Watch: Sophomore RB Royce Freeman

"Rolls" Royce is the Pac-12's leading rusher (139.2 yards per game) and the bell cow back for the nation's fourth best rushing offense (297.4 yards per game). While Oregon has had several talented tailbacks in recent years, Freeman is the pick of the bunch. To go along with breakaway speed, he carries a powerful 230-pound frame. He has only been held under 100 yards rushing twice this season, and not coincidentally, the Ducks lost both those games.

(Photo by Taylor Wilder/Daily Emerald)

Click here for more on the Ducks.

3 Keys

Quack First

USC has been prone to slow starts of late, so striking quickly would have been an emphasis against any opponent in any environment this week. However, the Ducks are the opponent and Autzen Stadium is the environment, so getting the engines revved up early is paramount. If the Trojans can play from out front, they can set the tempo to slow Oregon down and quiet the raucous crowd. In 2011, USC led 21-7 at halftime and then held on to win late. Interim head coach Clay Helton was there that night and knows a winning blueprint when he sees one.

Meet Ian Wheeler

In 2012, the last time USC and Oregon played, the Ducks did not punt until the game's final possession. The Trojans would like to get to know Ian Wheeler, Oregon's current punter, a whole lot better this time around. In order to get the Ducks to concede possession, the Trojans will need to force negative plays, which has suddenly become a strength for this team, totaling 10 tackles for loss in each of the last two games. Taking the ball away would be even better. Oregon is -4 in turnover margin in losses this season and +9 in wins.

7 >>> 3

The third key comes right from the head coach's mouth. Red zone efficiency is the stat of the week. Oregon leads the conference in scoring at 41.8 points per game, but the Ducks yield a conference-worst 37.1 points per contest. The Trojans have been more focused on physicality than explosiveness during their four-game winning streak, but they will need to hang a number on Saturday to hold off the Ducks. Oregon's defensive priorities will be stopping the run and taking away JuJu Smith-Schuster, so the Trojans need their other pass catchers to rise to the occasion.


JuJu's Turn

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USC sophomore WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, a Biletnikoff semifinalist, has proudly carried the torch this season.

He ranks first in the Pac-12 in receiving yards and tied for second in touchdown catches. Nationally, he is sixth in receiving yards per game, and among receivers with at least 1,000 yards on the season, he is third in yards per catch.

Click here for more on JuJu.

Click here to vote for JuJu for the Biletnikoff.

Smith-Schuster will have the national stage to state his case at least two more times this season as the Trojans travel to Oregon on Saturday before returning home for the annual showdown with UCLA.


Water Polo's Finest at USC

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USC men's water polo is hosting this year's MPSF Tournament, which features the nation's most elite field battling for spots in the NCAA Tournament. The bracket battle will be waged Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on campus.

Click here for the complete preview.

The Trojans are seeded No. 4 in the 10-team field, so they will open against No. 5 Stanford on Friday at 11:30 a.m. The winner will advance to the semifinals, likely against No. 1 UCLA, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. The title match, which grants the champion an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament, will be Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

Click here for the MPSF Tournament Central page.

USC is in a tight battle to keep its 10-year streak of trips to the NCAA title match alive. The Trojans will need a strong showing this weekend in front of their home fans in order to make the NCAA field. USC has taken two out of three matches against Stanford this season.


Top 25 Road Tests

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USC women's volleyball has regained its national No. 1 ranking as the Women of Troy hit the road for trips to No. 23 Arizona (Friday at 6 p.m. PT) and No. 24 Arizona State (Sunday at 1 p.m. PT).

Click here for the weekend preview.

The Trojans are on top of the conference by a single game over Washington, but they only have four matches left to play in the regular season. Here is Mick Haley on last week's sweeps and the final regular season road trip coming up:

Pac-12 Preview: USC vs. Oregon

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For the first time since 2012, USC and Oregon are set to square off. The Pac-12 Network crew featuring USC greats Matt Leinart and Curtis Conway breaks down the clash of the two conference titans.

Action Jackson

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USC sophomore Adoree' Jackson has been named one of four finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation's most versatile college football player. Jackson is joined by Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers in the final quartet.

Click here for more.

Click here to vote for Adoree'!

Jackson is a major contributor in all three phases of the game for the Trojans. He has 19 tackles and a pick-six on defense, 24 catches for 382 yards and 2 TDs on offense, and 658 punt and kick return yards combined on special teams.


Oregon Thursday: Notes

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USC interim head coach Clay Helton held his final press conference before the big trip to Oregon and started by thanking OC Register reporter Michael Lev for all his hard work before he departs for a new job covering the Arizona Wildcats.

On the injury front, Helton hopes OG Viane Talamaivao could play a role on Saturday, but S Leon McQuay III will be used only in case of emergency. If the game were today, he would start Olajuwon Tucker at ILB next to Anthony Sarao, but that is subject to change.

Here is Helton:

Premier Polynesians

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC_Football_CAL_McGillen_103115DSC_5727.jpgUSC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and LB Su'a Cravens have been named two of the five semifinalists for the 2015 Polynesian College Football Player Player of the Year Award, presented annually to the most outstanding Polynesian college football player that epitomizes great ability and integrity.

The sophomore wide receiver is sixth in the nation in yards per game (116.0), leads the conference in yards (1160) and is second in receiving touchdowns (10). The junior linebacker leads the Trojans in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (12).

The winner will be announced on December 8 with the formal presentation being held during the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend on January 29.


Trojans Live - Oregon Week

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

A star-studded cast filled the lineup for Trojans Live this week including interim head coach Clay Helton, USC QB Cody Kessler, currently seventh in the nation in completion percentage (68.7), freshmen running backs Ronald Jones II and Aca'Cedric Ware and special guest DeAnn Marshall from CHLA.

First up, Helton joined Jordan and JJ to discuss the toughness of his football team, their comeback win over Colorado and the keys to stopping the dangerous Oregon offense this Saturday.

Click here to listen to Helton's complete segment and Oregon scouting report.

From coach to QB, Kessler dropped by The Lab next to reflect on his career at USC. The redshirt senior discussed his maturity as a leader this season, the diversity of weapons on the Trojan offense and this weekend's match-up.

Click here to see what Kessler had to say about closing in on the final two regular season games of his Trojan career.

Senior Vice President and Chief Development and Marketing Officer for Children's Hospital Los Angeles DeAnn Marshall joined the show to talk about the strong connection between CHLA and USC over the years and the upcoming "Day of Giving" on November 28. At this year's USC/UCLA football game, fans are encouraged to text to give to support their local children's hospital. To hear more on how to get involved with CHLA's Live LA, Give LA campaign, click here. Click here to watch DeAnn's complete segment.

Finally, the "Texas Two-Step" aka Ronald Jones II and Aca'Cedric Ware, joined the show to talk about moving from Texas, their favorite hamburgers and what to expect from the talented Trojan running back corps in the future...

Molen Makes Pac-12 All-Academic

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Announced on Wednesday, USC women's soccer sophomore Nicole Molen earned First Team Pac-12 All-Academic honors. The midfielder boasts a 3.94 GPA as a human biology major and earned CoSIDA District 8 All-Academic first team honors as well. Molen has started in all 21 of the Trojans' games this season, scoring two goals and recording four assists.

Ten of her teammates earned All-Academic honors as well with spots on the honorable mention list. The 11 Trojans are tied for the second-most All-Academic honorees in the conference. Click here to read more on the complete group.