No. 18 USC Football Travels To No. 4 Oregon

    Marqise Lee

    Nov. 13, 2011


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    No. 18 USC--having hit the 8-victory mark for the 10th consecutive year despite the impediments of its NCAA sanctions--goes on the road for the last time in 2011, but it will be a challenging trip as the Trojans visit No. 4 Oregon. It's a battle between the leaders of the Pac-12 South and North Divisions. Perhaps the top statistical matchup in the game will be to see whether USC's vastly-improved rushing defense, which is ranked eighth nationally, can slow down Oregon's No. 5-rated rushing offense and NCAA rushing leader TB LaMichael James. The Trojans are barely above .500 when playing at Oregon and they haven't won in the state of Oregon against anybody since 2005 (5 straight losses). While USC holds a sizable edge in its series with Oregon, the Ducks have had the Trojans' number in recent years (winning 2 in a row, 3 of the past 4 and 8 of the last 13). It's the eighth straight USC-Oregon contest in which both teams are ranked. Oregon has the upper hand against the Trojans when the Ducks come in ranked higher, but in games when both teams are ranked, Troy has the edge, so go figure. The Ducks have won 21 straight in loud, 54,000-seat Autzen Stadium, which could be sold out even though rain, snow showers and cold are in the forecast.

    USC is coming off a convincing home victory over Washington. Troy's offense has scored at least 30 points in its past 6 games, including 40-plus in the past 3, while the Trojan defense has limited foes to 17 points or less 7 times this season. Honors candidate QB Matt Barkley is in the national Top 20 in passing efficiency and total offense and in the USC career Top 4 in passing and total offense. He has set a number of USC game records in 2011: completions, passing yards, passing TDs and total offense. WR Robert Woods, a leading candidate for the 2011 Biletnikoff and Hornung Awards, is the only player in the nation's Top 9 in receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose running. He is on pace to break the Pac-12 single season receptions record. Fellow WR Marqise Lee is having a Freshman All-American season. USC's ground game features TBs Curtis McNeal (the team's rushing leader 6 times in 2011) and bruising Marc Tyler. Pre-season All-American OT Matt Kalil (with 4 blocked kicks this year on special teams) anchors a line that has allowed just 6 sacks.

    The Trojan defense features the likes of sack-meister DE Nick Perry, lockdown CB Nickell Robey, pre-season All-American S T.J. McDonald and precocious LBs Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard. PK Andre Heidari is among the nation's top field goal kickers (he has missed just twice in 16 tries), while P Kyle Negrete (whose fake punt was the key momentum shift in the Washington win) has pinned opponents within the 20-yard line on 17 of his 33 punts (with no touchbacks and only 7 returns). Woods, Perry and Heidari are the Pac-12 leaders in receptions, sacks and field goals.

    Head coach Chip Kelly has 2-time defending league champion Oregon on a roll again in 2011. After dropping their opener to current No. 1 LSU, the Ducks have run off 9 straight wins (and 19 consecutive league victories), including impressively last weekend at undefeated No. 3 Stanford. The fast-and-furious Oregon offense tops the Pac-12 in scoring offense, rushing offense, total offense and passing efficiency (OU is Top 20 nationally in each category). Besides James (who leads the nation in rushing and is third in all-purpose running and ninth in scoring), the Ducks' stable of speedy runners features TB Kenyon Barner and freshman do-everything sensation TB De'Anthony Thomas. QB Darron Thomas, 10th nationally in passing efficiency, directs the offense and his top targets include WRs Lavasier Tuinei and Josh Huff and TE David Paulsen, a 2010 All-Pac-10 first teamer. Oregon's offensive line has surrendered just 7 sacks this season. Among the leaders on OU's defense, which is fifth nationally in sacks, are FS John Boyett, MLB Dewitt Stuckey and ROV Eddie Pleasant. Junior P Jackson Rice is the Pac-12's top punter.

    The game will be shown live nationally on ABC.