Oregon vs USC

Oregon vs USC : Breaking down the on-field matchups for No. 7 Oregon (7-1, 5-0) vs. USC (5-3, 4-1) on Saturday at the Coliseum at 5 p.m. (TV: Fox, Radio: 790). Pressuring Herbert will be of the utmost importance, but whether USC’s decimated defense can actually make that happen is an open question.

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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 2 – WEEK 10

Marquee matchup
USC’s defensive line vs. Oregon’s offensive line. Senior captain Christian Rector is expected to return this week, giving USC a necessary influx of experience up front. But the rest of the defensive line rotation is a bit light as freshman Drake Jackson remains out, and Oregon boasts the most experienced offensive front in the nation. As a result, the Ducks have kept the pocket clean most of the season, and NFL-bound quarterback Justin Herbert has responded with 21 touchdowns to just one pass intercepted.

Getting offensive
USC (442.4 ypg, 31.3 ppg): After an uneven start, Kedon Slovis came alive late on the road last Friday, and USC is convinced that the freshman has taken another step forward in his maturation. Slovis still ranks among the best in the nation in completion percentage (72.3%), and with its backfield riddled with injury, USC will again rely on him to find a rhythm through the air. Slovis will hope to build on a huge fourth quarter from last week. After a solid showing as the lead back in Colorado, freshman running Kenan Christon will play that role again, potentially with a larger workload. Over two games, Christon is averaging 8.4 yards per carry.

Oregon (466 ypg, 36 ppg): Few teams in the nation have been better on the ground than Oregon, which rolled over Washington State with 306 yards rushing and three touchdowns last week. Sophomore C.J. Verdell accounted for 257 of those yards and should be a huge part of the game plan against a depleted Trojans defensive front. With its running backs carrying the ball over 40 times per game, Oregon hasn’t had to unleash Herbert much lately.

Getting defensive
USC (429.4 ypg, 24.9 ppg): A group decimated by injuries could return two key starters, but against an offense that likes to take an early lead and control the ball, its depth may again be tested. USC was shredded by a far less superior offense last week in Boulder, allowing 520 yards, the second-most it’s allowed in four seasons. Making Herbert uncomfortable will be crucial. But if Oregon gets the run game going like it has in recent weeks, USC’s defense may have a hard time just getting off the field. Oregon will gladly make USC pay for any tackling issues that arise again.

Oregon (308.3 ypg, 14.8 ppg): No secondary in the nation has created more interceptions (14), and on paper, that would seem to be a nightmare for an opposing freshman quarterback. But it’s not just turnovers that make Oregon’s secondary so effective. The Ducks have held teams to 5.9 yards per pass attempt and a completion rate of 56%, figures that are second only to Utah in the Pac-12. Senior linebacker Troy Dye leads a run defense that’s also ranked among the conference’s best, allowing just over three yards per carry.

Breaking down the on-field matchups for No. 7 Oregon (7-1, 5-0) vs. USC (5-3, 4-1) on Saturday at the Coliseum at 5 p.m. (TV: Fox, Radio: 790).

Oregon (466 ypg, 36 ppg): Few teams in the nation have been better on the ground than Oregon, which rolled over Washington State with 306 yards rushing and three touchdowns last week. Sophomore C.J. Verdell accounted for 257 of those yards and should be a huge part of the game plan against a depleted Trojans defensive front. With its running backs carrying the ball over 40 times per game, Oregon hasn’t had to unleash Herbert much lately.

Getting defensive
USC (429.4 ypg, 24.9 ppg): A group decimated by injuries could return two key starters, but against an offense that likes to take an early lead and control the ball, its depth may again be tested. USC was shredded by a far less superior offense last week in Boulder, allowing 520 yards, the second-most it’s allowed in four seasons. Making Herbert uncomfortable will be crucial. But if Oregon gets the run game going like it has in recent weeks, USC’s defense may have a hard time just getting off the field. Oregon will gladly make USC pay for any tackling issues that arise again.

Oregon (308.3 ypg, 14.8 ppg): No secondary in the nation has created more interceptions (14), and on paper, that would seem to be a nightmare for an opposing freshman quarterback. But it’s not just turnovers that make Oregon’s secondary so effective. The Ducks have held teams to 5.9 yards per pass attempt and a completion rate of 56%, figures that are second only to Utah in the Pac-12. Senior linebacker Troy Dye leads a run defense that’s also ranked among the conference’s best, allowing just over three yards per carry.

Oregon’s seven-game winning streak is on the line in a matchup of divisional leaders
Pac-12 divisional leaders Oregon and USC meet Saturday in one of the most important conference games of the season.

Oregon’s late-game heroics in recent weeks to beat rival Washington, then snap a four-game losing skid to Washington State, extended the Ducks’ current winning streak to seven games. Oregon remains alive in the College Football Playoff hunt after ascending to No. 7 in the latest AP Top 25 poll. A road win over the Pac-12 South leader could improve the Ducks’ standing further next week when the first Playoff rankings are revealed.

As for the host Trojans, they defend their perfect home record on the season with designs on a return to the Pac-12 Championship. USC is fresh off its first road win of 2019, edging Colorado on a Michael Pittman Jr. touchdown in the final minutes. The Trojans trailed for more than 40 minutes of that one, but the comeback keeps their inside track on the South intact.

USC holds that advantage over Utah by virtue of a September win, one of USC’s four at the Coliseum. It’s the last day before the nation rolls back its clocks and sunset comes an hour earlier. Still, nightfall arrives in Los Angeles well before the fourth quarter Saturday. Expect some #Pac12AfterDark madness in this pivotal contest.

Oregon at USC

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. ET

TV: FOX

Spread: Oregon -5

When Oregon Has the Ball
Before he came to Oregon, initially as Willie Taggart’s offensive coordinator and currently as head coach, Mario Cristobal coached the offensive line at Alabama. Tuscaloosa influence is evident in the Ducks brand of football.

Oregon aims to impose its will physically with one of the nation’s best offensive lines. The front five paves the way for the Pac-12’s third-most productive rushing offense, fourth-most prolific passing attack, and most efficient passing game. Justin Herbert’s veteran savvy and the time his blockers buy him combine to produce almost error-free football with the quarterback throwing 21 touchdowns against just one interception.

This style of play wears down opposing defenses effectively, evident in three of the Ducks’ last four games. Oregon outscored Cal, Washington, and Washington State in those games by a combined 58-38 margin after halftime.

Clancy Pendergast’s USC defense has been wildly up-and-down throughout the season. Injury plays a part; Christian Rector, Drake Jackson, and Talanoa Hufanga have all spent time on the sidelines this month. Jackson and Hufanga are out Saturday. The Trojans followed a masterful defensive performance Week 8 vs. Arizona with a dud at Colorado, only recovering after quarterback Steven Montez sustained a fourth-quarter injury.

USC limited Stanford and Utah on the scoreboard, two teams with comparable offensive philosophies to Oregon. In both instances, however, red-zone misfires played a critical role. For Utah in particular, the Utes gobbled up yardage with Zack Moss sidelined most of the game, but faltered when in scoring range. Oregon should be able to move the ball, starting early with a physically battering emphasis on establishing CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio with the run. Capitalizing on opportunities that come as a result is crucial.

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