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How We Go: Oregon will zone read USC all night long

As I look at the SC defense, I see an enigma. Statistically, USC's defense has been quite good this season, especially against the run. They only give up 3.51 yards per carry, and less than 25 points per game. They have something Stanford doesn't, and that's second level speed that can giving the Trojans a hope of catching the Oregon backs if they reach the second level. Sure, they give up a 63% completion percentage, but a lot of that is check downs and they've covered the deep stuff pretty well (and its not exactly like Oregon has a ton of deep threats anyway).

Yet, in spite of this, I still think the Oregon offense is a bad matchup for the SC defense.

I'll call it now: there is no way the Trojans limit Oregon to three and a half yards a carry. USC's defense is much improved, but they haven't faced a team as fast as Oregon. Stanford is the only team they've faced that may have an offensive line as physical as Oregon's. They haven't faced a scheme like Oregon, a scheme that has confused and torched them two years in a row.

We've talked in previous years about the schematic disadvantage of the Tampa 2 against the spread option. Moving a linebacker back gives LMJ another yard or two before the linebacker gets to him (though it could help limit explosion plays up the middle). They'll give up seam routes to the tight end. They'll be forced to make tackles in space on the edges.

Yet, in talking with Matt Daddy on the podcast on Tuesday, then looking at the matchups myself, I think SC's biggest weakness is going to be right up the middle.

The big nose tackle, Christian Tupou, has a neck injury and is unlikely to play.  That gives them on senior, DaJohn Harris, and four freshman to split time between the two defensive tackle spots.  Given the amount of substitution required against Oregon's offense, that's a lot of freshman playing against the Ducks.  Two of the starting linebackers, Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, are also freshmen.  Freshmen all up the interior of the USC defense.

Its going to be zone read city.

Yes, the zone read.  The bread and butter of the Oregon offense, but something that has decreased in frequency as the offense has expanded.  Here's where we bring it back in a big way.  Zone read different defenders:  take an experienced defensive end out of the play, then read Harris at DT, then read a  linebacker.  Zone read out of different formations.  One thing SC does not have is great depth.  Confuse them and wear them down.

The Trojans have been unable to stop Oregon for two years running, largely due to the confusion that the misdirection of the Oregon offense and the wear down factor caused by the pace.  I see nothing in this years incarnation that would lead me to believe a different result.