Just like it was advertised leading up to last year’s game at the Coliseum, USC’s battle with Oregon will be its bowl game. Seeing as the Trojans are ineligible to compete in the PAC-12’s inaugural championship game or in any bowl game for that matter, they only stand to gain the satisfaction of spoiling the Duck’s title hopes with a victory. That and they can finally break the curse that the state of Oregon has placed on them for the last five seasons.
USC has been playing at a very high level lately, averaging 43.3 points per game over the last three games. However, what is even more impressive is what Oregon has managed to do to its opponents. Since their loss to LSU the opening week of the season the Ducks have defeated every team they have faced by at least two touchdowns. Oregon has consistently proven that they can score on anyone and Saturday night should be no exception.
Coming off a drubbing of Stanford on the road the Ducks should be even better back on their home turf. Oregon has not lost at home in three years in large part because Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest, most difficult stadiums for opposing teams to play in. Not to mention that the weather plays highly into Oregon’s favor. With a fifty percent chance of rain at game time, the Trojans may struggle to cope with the adverse conditions.
The rain also lends itself more to the running game than it does the passing attack. While USC’s running game is good, Oregon’s is phenomenal. Oregon's rushing attack ranks fifth in the nation behind the fearsome three man running attack of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and turn coat De’Anthony Thomas. James in particular has had the Trojans number in their previous two meetings. He has amassed 422 yards rushing and four touchdowns in his career against USC.
While Oregon’s success relies on its three backs, the Trojans need one player in particular to step up if they have any chance of winning: Matt Barkley. He will need to play a mistake free game to silence the Autzen Stadium crowd, but he is already at a severe disadvantage. As of now Robert Woods is questionable for Saturday. Even if he does play he will certainly not be near full strength and could put in another one catch performance like he did against Washington. That puts more pressure on Marqise Lee to perform and be Barkley’s first option.
Looking at this matchup, the only way that USC can expect to come out of Eugene with a win is if they play mistake free football. That is certainly a possibility, but in an environment like Autzen Stadium and against a team that is as fast and talented as Oregon, it seems unlikely. It looks like once again the Trojans are in line to fall at the hands of the Ducks.
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