Early Analysis: Oregon vs. USC

No. 4 Oregon at No. 17 USC
7:00 PM, Fox
Line: Oregon -7.5

Before the season started, this game was considered to be a preview of the potential Pac-12 title game and possibly affect the BCS Title game race.

Both of those things are still in play, but the stakes are higher for Oregon, as this is the first of three games that the Ducks play on the road in November, and the first of three games they play against ranked opponents. The Ducks strength of schedule can only go up from here, but they have to avoid the landmines if they want to head to Miami in January.

For USC, they are looking to make a statement after a come from ahead loss in Tucson last week, squandering a 28-13 lead and falling to the Wildcats 39-36. With their BCS title dreams dead, the Trojans want to finish this season strong, and a decisive win over the Ducks would go a long way to reestablishing themselves in the conference race.

For Oregon to win: Run USC into the ground. In their two losses this season, the Trojans have been outscored 40-15. The Ducks' starters have literally been taking second halves off this season, as they usually establish themselves early and coast to the finish line. If the Ducks are going to win, they will have to be pedal to the metal in the first half and try to wear a thin USC squad down. This will manifest itself in the usual breakneck tempo and a consistent reliance on the running game.

For USC to win: Avoid turnovers. Five turnovers against Arizona. Three against Stanford. A minus five turnover margin in those two losses helped to doom the Trojans. Oregon, with their quick strike offense, will capitalize on those mistakes, and while the length of field doesn't matter to the Ducks, giving them a short field is almost akin to giving them free points.

Key Players, Oregon: Terrance Mitchell and Iko Ekpre-Olomu, cornerbacks. Sophomore cornerbacks. Both around 5'10" to 6'0" tall and about 180-190 pounds. They will be matched up on Marquise Lee and Robert Woods. They don't have to get interceptions, but some passes defensed and not allowing a lot of yards after the catch will go a long way to slowing down the Trojans offense.

Key Player, USC: Matt Barkley, quarterback. If coming back for the senior season was about unfinished business, then there is still a lot of work for Barkley to do. The BCS title game is out, but getting to a BCS bowl game can still be accomplished, but it has to start with a win in this game. Barkley has shown flashes of greatness, but he has to be solid and avoid mistakes. If he throws two picks and/or fumbles a couple of times, it is lights out for USC.

Key Stat: 11. Oregon has scored 40 or more points in 11 straight games. The last time that the Ducks failed to reach 40 was last season on November 19. That opponent? USC. It was also the last game that Oregon has lost.

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