Big Time Game in Eugene
Wow...what a trip to South Bend/Chicago. I know Notre Dame is struggling this year, but there is always something special about watching USC vs ND in Notre Dame Stadium. USC has only defeated the Irish 12 times in South Bend, so Trojan fans should take the wins when they get them. This is also the first time USC has defeated the Irish 6 straight times. Congrats to Pete Carroll, his staff and the players on a great accomplishment. This is the most storied rivalry in college football and each win in the series should be embraced...WE LOVED IT!
It was awesome to see tons of Trojans in Chicago and South Bend...we ran into many friends, starting with dinner Thursday night.
The Friday afternoon rally at the Navy Pier is one of the great Trojan events...if you have not experienced it, I highly recommend getting to Chicago on Thursday so you can attend the rally. Thousands of Trojans together in enemy territory with the Spirit of Troy.
We tried something different this year...after the rally, we left Chicago for South Bend, where we had rented a house half a mile from Notre Dame Stadium.
The house was great and was a perfect place to hang out Friday night and post game Saturday. The Watkins stayed in South Bend as well and we met them at Linebackers Friday evening (unfortunately no pics, but trust me it was classic!) Rob, Andy and Dr Bob also stopped by to celebrate Saturday evening.
Saturday was an epic day with absolutely perfect weather in South Bend. We arrived very early and set up our Trojan tents and flags right in the middle of the ND booster lot right next to the stadium. Absolutely great turnout of Trojans as the flags seemed to attract USC fans from everywhere.
We even got a visit from "USC SYCO" who has been to over 180 consecutive USC games (home and away). He is often shown on TV waving this license plate.
I know there are a lot of pictures in this post, but it was such a great trip and no better way to end it than celebrating with the band after the game.
On to the Ducks....
General Observations on the Oregon Game
- First game EVER in Autzen stadium between two Top 10 teams...that is hard to believe
- This is a statement game for the Trojans...first time USC has been a Pac 10 underdog since November 2001
- One of the most intriguing match ups of the year with Oregon strength (offense) vs USC strength (defense) and Oregon weakness (defense) vs USC weakness (offense)....these type of games are decided by 1) Turnovers 2) Big Plays on Special Teams and 3) Penalties
- Trojans have played well in Autzen of late...let's hope that continues
Oregon Offense vs USC Defense
- There is no doubt the Oregon offense is legit...the Ducks are 3rd nationally in rushing (295 yds/game), 2nd nationally in scoring (46 pts/game) and 2nd nationally in total offense (551 yds/game)
- RB Johnathan Steward leads the conference in rushing and yards per carry...he is the key to this Duck offense. Stewart rushed for over 250yds last week against Washington. Stewart also leads the conference (11th nationally) in kickoff returns
- To top it off, QB Dennis Dixon is ranked 4th nationally in passing efficiency, runs for 60 yards a game and has thrown and ran for a touchdown in each game this year
- This will be a big challenge for the Trojans...USC has struggled with mobile quarterbacks and Dixon is playing lights out right now
- The Trojans counter with the nation's fourth best rush defense (64 yds/game), 10th best scoring defense (17 pts/game) and third best total defense (252 yds/game)...something has to give and that is why this game is so intriguing
- I think the defensive game plan is simple on paper...shut down Stewart and force Dixon to beat the Trojans. Easier said than done
- I do think the Trojan defense can control the Oregon running game. The defense is taking this game as a personal challenge and I think they want to make a statement
- There will be 2 keys to stopping the Ducks running game. First, control the middle of the line. Sedrick Ellis and Fili Moala are outstanding run stoppers and I believe they will control the middle. Second, maintain discipline on the edges. USC has both speed and experience on the edges with Rivers, Cushing, Lojack and Moore. There will certainly be some blown assignments, but I like the matchup for the Trojans
- Pete said it on Tuesday to the press..."We need to hit Dixon". The Duck QB better have his head on a swivel and be ready to slide because the Trojans are looking to hit him hard. Ask Jake Locker how that turned out
- The Ducks will be without 2 of their top 3 WRs for this game. Oregon will still be dangerous through the air, but this is a break for the Trojans
- Dixon will look to rack up yards with the short passing game, particularly to tight end Ed Dickson. The Ducks will get their yards on Saturday, but will they get points?
- The USC defense has been playing outstanding and I just have the sense this will be a breakout game in classic Pete Carroll fashion
USC Offense vs Oregon Defense
- This matchup will decide the game...if the Trojans can move the ball, control the clock and keep the explosive Duck offense on the sideline, it should work out well for USC. On the other hand, if USC has multiple 3 and outs and worse turnovers, it could get ugly for the Trojans
- From everything I am hearing, Sam Baker and Chilo Rachal with both start. If they are healthy enough to contribute, this will be a MAJOR boost to the Trojan offensive line.
- Mark Sanchez will start at QB again for the Trojans and it will be a big test for him on the road in Eugene. Notre Dame stadium was loud for about 1 quarter last week...Autzen will be rocking
- I think Stafon will be available play...although not 100%. Look for about the same distribution of carries to CW, SJ, JM and SH as last week. I think it is a good mix
- Oregon is a bit soft up front. The Ducks' 3 top tacklers are 2 safeties and a corner...not a good sign for a defense. The Ducks rank 7th in the conference in rush defense and 7th in total defense (400 yds/game). Oregon has done a nice job forcing turnovers and thus has kept opposing teams out of the endzone (allowing 23 pts/game)
- The Ducks did allow Washington 34 points (421 yards), Stanford 31 points in the first half (402 yards), Houston 27 points (545 yds) and Cal 31 points (400 yds)
- The Ducks will play to stop the run first, using LBs and safeties to crash the gaps. Oregon will look to test Sanchez's ability to throw the ball
- I think SC will try and use the passing game to open the running game. With the safeties likely involved in stopping the run, I think Sanchez will be able to find some openings. I expect a big game from Patrick Turner...it is his time. The Ducks will focus on Davis and Havilli
- If the Ducks try and play straight up against the Trojans, look for the USC OL to dominate. SC will break some nice runs in this game. It is critical that CW and JM minimize the negative plays. CW must go forward and not always look for the cutback lane
- I just don't see the Ducks allowing USC to run against 7 in the box...they will bring up the safety and force Sanchez to make plays. I think Mark is up to the challenge...his confidence is growing everyday
- It is critical that the Trojans do not make many mistakes in this game. Turnover and penalties that put the Trojans in 2nd/3rd in long may be too much to overcome
This is a huge opportunity for the Trojans and is the type of game where USC has excelled in the past. I have a feeling the Trojans will play their best game of the season...let's hope its enough for the victory.