2010 Oregon Football Preview :: USC Trojans

Part 8 in a series on Oregon's 2010 season opponents

Part 1:  New Mexico | Part 2: Tennessee | Part 3: Portland State | Part 4: Arizona State | Part 5: Stanford | Part 6: Washington State | Part 7: UCLA


 Time 5:00PM PST :: October 30, 2010 :: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Opponent USC
Nickname Trojans
Location Los Angeles, CA
Enrollment 34,824
Head Coach Lane Kiffin (first year at USC, 7-6 overall)
Stadium Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (93,607) : Natural Grass
2009 Record 9-4, (5-4 Pac 10)
Starters Returning 5 Offense : 5 Defense
Base Offense Pro Style
Base Defense 4-3 (Tampa 2)
Blogs Conquest ChroniclesBruins Nation
Newspapers LA TimesOrange County Register

Top Returners

Category Player
Rushing Allen Bradford :: 115 Rushes : 692 Yards : 8 TD
Passing Matt Barkley :: 211/352 : 2735 Yards : 15 TD : 14 INT
Receiving Ronald Johnson :: 34 Receptions : 378 Yards : 3 TD
Tackles Malcom Smith :: 72 Total, 37 Solo, 35 Assisted
Sacks Nick Perry :: 8 sacks
Interceptions Chris Galippo :: 2 INT

If anyone acts like they know what in the world will go on at USC this year, they are lying. With Pete Carroll gone, Lane Kiffin now in charge, defections galore, and the team led by a young QB that shows the restraint of Rex Grossman, I simply have no clue what USC can do this year.

This is a team that has the talent to win the Pac-10 and run the table. It's also a fairly young team with a new coaching staff that has serious depth issues (they currently have only 71 scholarship players), so they have no room for error with injuries. On top of that, they have the psychological toll of NCAA sanctions, and after USC collapsed down the stretch last year, there is no telling how the team will respond to adversity.

2009 Offensive Statistics 

Statistic USC Oregon
Pass Offense 222.3 (54) 180.31 (98)
Rush Offense 166.67 (44) 231.69 (6)
Total Offense 389.1 (55) 412.00 (33)
Scoring Offense 26.5 (64) 36.08 (8)
Pass Efficiency 130.22 (54) 128.03 (59)
Sacks Allowed 1.39 (31) 1.00 (10)
3rd Down Conversion % 35.67 (89) 35.12 (95)
Yards/Play 6.2 (17) 6.0 (24)

The USC offense will be led by all world recruit Matt Barkley. A true sophomore, Barkley had a productive year last season, but threw 14 interceptions to just 15 TDs, and made a lot of poor decisions throughout the year. I think that part of his problem is also an advantage: he doesn't get rattled or afraid, and because of that, tends to take chances many QBs wouldn't. His interception problem has been around since high school, and because of this, was called the most overrated player in the Pac-10 by HeismanPundit. I'm a big believer in the continuation of the past until proven otherwise, and I expect similar play from Barkley this year. He'll have many plays that will make SportsCenter highlights, but he will likely make a good number of plays that will be disastrous. USC's biggest problem in losses the past few years has been turning over the ball, and that does not bode well with Matt Barkley as QB, and spring ball doesn't show a lot of promise for the Trojans

In front of Barkley will be one of the better O-lines in the Pac-10, led by the best center in the country, Kristofer O'Dowd. He leads a unit that is not all that experienced, with the only other returning starter being LT Tyron Smith. But it's USC, so talent abounds. We'll have to wait and see if the unit will come together, but they will get by on talent alone as long as they stay healthy.

The USC rushing attack is always dangerous, but has slipped quite a ways from the glory days of Bush and White. Allen Bradford is the top returning back, though he's never been the premiere back for the Trojans. Perennial backup CJ Gable is also back and they are joined by Dillon Baxter, who has drawn comparisons to Reggie Bush. The unit will have the benefit of running behind Stanley Havili, one of the best fullbacks in the country. 

The receiving corp is led by Ronald Johnson, who missed some time last season due to injury. He will be joined by Brice Butler, who started one game last year, and the unit will get some assistance from 2010's top WR recruit Kyle Prater and 2010's top TE recruit Xavier Grimble.

The offense as a whole will be dangerous, but I can't help but think that the problems that have plagued USC since 2005 will remain. The don't have any truly proven gamebreakers, or a player that can take the offense on his back and get the big play when it's needed. This has been what has doomed the Trojans to random conference losses the last few years, and I don't see that trend stopping anytime soon.

2009 Defensive Statistics

Statistic USC Oregon
Pass Defense 212.3 (48) 207.62 (44)
Rush Defense 128.15 (39) 128.69 (42)
Total Defense 340.5 (40) 336.31 (35)
Scoring Defense 19.8 (19) 23.77 (51)
Pass Efficiency Defense 105.92 (16) 112.30 (25)
Tackles for Loss 7.00 (20) 6.31 (40)
Opponent 3rd Down % 37.76 (48) 37.91 (51)
Turnover Margin 0.00 (61) +0.15 (51)
Yards/Play Allowed 4.8 (20) 4.4 (12)

The USC defense dominated the Pac-10 for almost a decade. That ended last year, as they were dominated by both Oregon and Stanford. With new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, they will attempt to regain their former dominance.

USC typically field the best DL in the Pac-10, and this year is no exception. While they lose some big time players, 6 of their top 8 players return, including DE Nick Perry, who had 8 sacks last year (though Perry will miss the first few games with a high ankle sprain). He will be joined by Wes Horton who started last year as a true freshman. In the middle, 1st team All Pac-10 DT Jurrell Casey will be a force along with DaJohn Harris. It's a dangerous group that will manhandle a lot of the offensive lines they face.

The real weakness of USC last year was the linebacking corp. After losing 3 top linebackers in 2008, the group regressed. Malcom Smith, Chris Galippo, and Michael Morgan all return. They will need to improve from last years performance if the defense wants to avoid last seasons catastrophe.

In the secondary, USC may be at its weakest, as they return just 5 starts for the group. Yet, it's USC, so they have blue chip players to plug into the system. With Monte Kiffin running his Tampa 2 defense, this unit will be asked to do a lot. At Tennessee last season, Kiffin had Eric Berry running the show, but he does not have that advantage this season. If these young players can't grasp the system quickly, the defense could have some issues against the better offenses in the Pac-10.

2009 Special Teams Statistics 

Statistic USC Oregon
Kick Returns 18.86 (111) 24.91 (10)
Punt Returns 13.61 (8) 12.00 (27)
Kickoff Returns Against 24.59 (110) 20.85 (42)
Punt Returns Against 2.06 (3) 6.83 (T-36)

In special teams, USC breaks in new placekicker Joe Houston, who has hit one point after in his career. They also return punter Jacob Harfman, who averaged only 39.8 yards per punt last season though was helped by wonderful punt return coverage. They also lose Damian Williams, who was one of the top punt returners in the nation last year. 

USC's special teams is usually outstanding due to their depth, though last years kickoff coverage and returns was atrocious. They should be solid this year, though look to replace Williams, which may prove problematic. 

Luckily for opponents, this is not a dominating group, and other teams should be able to at least stay even in the field position and special teams game.

Final Analysis

When Oregon heads into the Colesium, I honestly have no idea what to expect. This USC significant questions on offense, defense, and coaching. 

They are getting the benefit of the doubt from the media, and overall, they've earned that, but it just seems like they're slipping. Their offense will not consistently dominate, and neither will be the defense. On top of that, we still have no idea if Lane Kiffin is a good coach. His team is talented, and this will be a test of his ability. 

At this point, it's tough to evaluate how the Oregon/USC matchup will go, as both teams will have some time to work out any kinks. At this point, I think Oregon has a slight edge, mainly because they have some proven playmakers, but USC has the talent to get there. We'll have to wait and see if they do.

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