In preparation of Saturday's big game, we have swapped questions with our USC bretheren, Conquest Chronicles. They were kind enough to answer our questions, and you can see our answers to their up on CC.
ATQ: Looks like SC has a full blown QB controversy on their hands. Who SHOULD start, and who WILL start?
CC: My pick for "should" and "will" are the same: Mark Sanchez. He's had a couple of games to get warmed up, and Booty's finger isn't fully healed. It's not like Booty isn't there should they need him, or if Sanchez stinks it up early in the game. If Booty was healthy... I don't know. Oregon is a lot better than Notre Dame, so I don't want to get carried away with the notion that Sanchez is automatically the go-to-guy for the rest of the season.
ATQ: One of SC's problems has been injuries, especially on the offensive line. How is the injury situation looking this week?
CC: Things are improving on the injury front. Rachal and Baker are supposedly going to play in the offensive line, and Stafon Johnson is hurt but not so much that he can't play. Frankly, it's O-line guys that matter the most for this game.
ATQ: For the problems that the Trojans have had on offense, SC has still been dominant on defense. In fact, they are #1 in the country in total defense. Oregon is #2 in the country on total defense. The past few years, SC has had no trouble stifling the Ducks' offense, but the Ducks have also not been this good offensively during that stretch. What is your feeling about the SC defense coming into the game?
CC: I have two primary concerns about the USC defense coming into this game. The first is that the secondary is not the strongest group within the defense, which will probably open up opportunities for Dixon. The second is Dixon - SC can function reasonably well against the run, but running QBs definitely pose a challenge. SC was able to stay on top of Locker, but he's a true freshman. I'm concerned that if our LBs either over-commit or bite on fakes, Dixon will be showing them a clean pair of heels. Apparently an anonymous Pac 10 coach thinks that we're vulnerable.
ATQ: Offensively, the Trojans have been inconsistent at best. Besides the injuries and the QB play, what are other reasons for this? And can they get it together against a mediocre UO defense?
CC: SC has been inconsistent as you note. The offensive line injuries killed the running game, and while I think Booty makes mistakes, a lot of passes were being dropped. Our WRs are just not there yet, and while Havili's blocking is great - and much needed - he's not doing well as a primary or outlet receiver. I think our best bet, especially against a team with an explosive offense like Oregon, is to keep pounding the ball as much as possible on the ground. Overall, a conservative offense is sadly probably our best bet.
ATQ: Against big rushing offenses, our DC Nick Aliotti likes to stack the box and leave our corners single coverage against the opposing receiver. Washington made us pay for that last week. Is there any chance that the strategy works at all against SC? And does the QB decision play any role in that?
CC: Your DC's approach could get Oregon burned badly IF one or more of our WRs can actually hold onto the ball. If nothing else, it might give a chance for some mismatches with McKnight - if he gets open in the Oregon secondary, look out.
ATQ: For the first time since August 30, 2003, SC is an underdog going into the game. For the record, SC shut out Auburn in that game. I know it doesn't really matter, but how does it feel to be the underdog (albeit by the slimmest of margins) for a change?
CC: Well, there's no way SC is going to shut out Oregon... It doesn't really bother me to see SC as the underdog. Based on the team's play so far this season, they should be a narrow underdog. Strutting around while the results weren't coming wasn't a recipe for long term success, and Oregon has largely been getting it done on the field. I have mixed feelings about whether I want to see SC winning out and taking down everyone else who could challenge UCLA for the conference title, versus being more interested in someone, anyone, stopping UCLA. Of all the seasons to lose to Stanford...
Thanks again to Conquest Chronicles for joining us. Here's hoping that Saturday's game is everything its billed to be.