Saturday, November 26, 2011

Oregon will Crush OSU!

Let's Face It...Oregon is bigger, faster, stronger, and a much more complete team than the Beavers. Statistically there is no logical way for OSU to win the game but that's why we play them! This game should not be close however I thought Oregon would beat SC last week 38-17 so lets just look at the Keys to the game for The Ducks:

  1. Needs to stay at within-1 on Turnover Margin
  2. Needs to come out Focused and forget last week!
  3. Disrupt OSU timing in the passing  game
  4. Pressure Sean Mannion!
I think the only reason this game could be close is if Oregon repeats its two and a half quarter hangover as it did against SC last week. If OSU wins the turnover battle by two, limits Oregon's explosion plays, and can sustain long grinding drives against the Ducks it could be a good game. With that being said, I don't expect this game to be close and I think its over in the second quarter with Oregon winning big 55-17. 

Thanks for Reading,

The Fan

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going Mental over USC's upset of Oregon

So how does crow taste...I've had better...I was boasting all over ESPN, Facebook, Blogs, and to whoever would listen about how Oregon would run away with a victory against USC whom I felt was outmatched and would be overwhelmed in the second half. I thought Oregon was a much better team than USC. I thought Oregon's defense would be the difference and it was, sort of... 

Like most Duck fans I sat in silence after the game wondering how we could lose to this team. It was obvious USC came to play and that they believed from the first possession of the game they could beat the Ducks on their own turf. It was obvious that the Trojans were going to leave nothing on the field and this game meant everything to them. Regardless, I still thought with everything on the line, my Ducks would find a way to pull out a "W", they always find a way right...Not this time.

To me it started Saturday night after the Stanford game in an interview I heard of some players talking about a rematch with LSU. Also I remember reading that one local journalist thought Oregon was celebrating the Stanford victory more than most. While not uncommon after a big win, I felt for the first time since Chip Kelly took over as head coach that the Ducks might be thinking past their next opponent. This was really a small passing observation but it prompted me to post on my Facebook that Oregon should not overlook USC.

Throughout the week I read much about how USC had been preparing to beat Oregon since Spring, adding extra conditioning, going smaller at linebacker, and putting more speed on the field. The coaches also spent time game planning each week on how to play against Oregon. There was a sense in the LA Media that this game would really define USC's season. So you see the feeling beginning with one team totally focused on the moment and the other possibly thinking ahead. 

The next event was Iowa State beating OK State on Friday night. I'm sure the Ducks saw this game and realized afterward if they take care of business that they had a realistic shot at playing in the NC. While most people think this would create more focus, I believe in young teams it can be a huge distraction. The reason is thinking of the possibility of the NC puts the focus on the future and not the task at hand.

So now before the game we hear that Snoop Dogg, King James, and a slew of NBA celebs would be attending. Yet another distraction for this young team with so much on the line. 

Now to the game. First possession Oregon completely shuts down USC. Soon there is a turnover and it feels like Oregon is going to start fast. Then an errant simple throw that results in a turnover, first mental mistake of the game. The next mistake happens when a young DB is caught looking in the backfield and gets beat deep. Even though he's in position to make the play he fails to turn around and USC catches it for a huge gain. The next mental mistake is a dropped pass on a 4th and 8 which looks to be set up perfect and might go for 6. Fast forward to the second quarter and you have missed blocking assignments, blown coverages, and then an easy touchdown that is juggled in the endzone by DeAnthony Thomas. Bad throw, bad catch... These are plays that the Ducks O regularly makes. Next play Fumble by LMJ and Oregon goes in down 14 at the half. 

Throughout the game there are several more dropped passes errant throws, blown coverages, and missed tackles. Somehow Oregon wakes up and realizes that they are about to get blown out if they don't start playing and then the FOCUS is there. You see Oregon playing good defense, making throws, catching balls, and then USC gives Oregon a gift of fumbling when it seemed like an automatic 3 points if not a touchdown to seal the victory. 

Oregon, takes the ball and begins driving it downfield. They are in the hurry up but there are a few times when guys are tackled in the middle of the field short of first downs and No Timeouts are called. It begins to seem like Oregon starts playing for overtime instead of the win...I have never known Coach Kelly to not go for the win. He has ultimate trust in his guys and all of the sudden he's playing for overtime. This goes against everything that he's done since he was here. To me this was a coaches mental error. The clock runs down and Oregon is forced to attempt a 42 yard field goal. Then a gift from the Trojans, a 5 yard penalty. Now a 37 yard field goal...Now the last mental error of the night, a fatal wide left field goal that ends the Ducks NC dreams for 2011-2012 season. 

To me there were a ton of mental errors which led me to think that this team for the first time in a few years wasn't mentally prepared. Too many distractions and mental mistakes from the Coaching staff down to the players. I don't blame one player for not making plays, or not being prepared because its everyone's fault. This is a team game, Win as team, lose as a team, prepare as a team, be distracted as a team, they go hand in hand. 

I give credit to the whole team and coaching staff when they win so the same has to happen when they lose. It was a team loss, and a lack of focus by all. I learned that the Ducks are almost talented enough to beat USC with their "C" game, but not quite...USC played their best game in the last 3 years and Oregon almost had enough to win. Oregon truly is that good, but it goes to show no matter how talented you are, you can't win every game unless you are 100% focused. Oregon lost to USC no doubt but they still have a lot to play for. This team will be tested by OSU this week, I just hope they don't let USC beat them twice. We will learn if this team has what it takes to bounce back, if it has grit, and if it can refocus, get back into the now, and Win the Day because today is all we have...

Thanks for reading,

The Fan

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can USC upset Oregon at Autzen?

The past two seasons the Trojans have been left behind by the Ducks
This years game is shaping up to be a big one and I've heard some grumbles of a possible upset brewing. Obviously Oregon is coming off a huge victory and can't afford to come out flat against a USC team that has nothing else but this game to play for. Yes they do still play UCLA but that is not the same stage as this one. So lets see if an upset is possible or if the Ducks will get the hat trick against the Men of Troy. 

The Perception: USC is considered by many the most athletic defense in the Pac-12 this year and some are even saying they are the best defense that we will face aside from LSU. On the other side of the ball Oregon is considered by many to be the top offense in the country. So this matchup would seem to be a power on power affair right...

The Facts: The Trojans Rank #49 in total Defense and giving up 363.8 YPG. Not bad considering they start three Freshman at linebacker (1 true and 2 redshirt). They are stout against the run holding opponents to a meager 100.4 yards per game on the ground. Also the Trojans are solid against the pass ranking #63 in Pass Efficiency Defense but playing in the pass heavy PAC-12 its understandable. They do give up 263 YPG Passing which ranks them at #100 but that is a skewed number in my mind. Overall they rank #49 in Total Defense which measures Yards Per Game but that really doesn't give you the whole story especially in an offensively heavy conference. 

Quick Analysis: Anyway, USC looks very good defensively on paper and with the eye test. It has taken this unit time to gel but its apparent since the beat down of the Irish that they have made some huge strides. They have speed at linebacker, one of the best safeties in the country in TJ McDonald, and a big athletic defensive line. Overall the Trojans plays fairly disciplined on defense but at times they have a tendency to overrun plays and the young linebackers have had trouble with their run/pass reads. USC has decent corners that can match up against most of the Oregon receiving corp for 60 minutes.

Quick Look at the Offense: USC's offense is lead by a very calm and efficient quarterback named Matt Barkley. He is not nearly as athletic as Andrew Luck but I personally think Barkley is the better pocket passer. Barkley is not very mobile and when flushed out of the pocket is when the defenses odds of successfully defending him get better. He is in his third year so the game is slowing down for him and you can see that especially as of late. It helps that he two tremendously athletic wideouts in Robert Woods and Marquis Lee. They are both 6-1 with longer arms, fast, athletic, have great hands, and will fight for the ball. They are great targets that will both be playing on Sunday's in the next few years. At running back you have Curtis McNeal who is extremely shifty and deceptively fast. He is not as fast or explosive as Oregon's trio but he does have breakaway speed if Oregon is caught out of position and he is a good interior runner that can get some tough yards. SC does a excellent job of protecting Barkley hence ranking #4 in the country in sacks allowed with six all season. Part of this is because USC will go max protect and allow Woods and Lee to get open. 

USC Gameplan: The Trojans will try to control the ball on offense and keep the Ducks offense off the field. They do a good job of mixing run and pass and if they are successful early it can be hard to get them out of their grind you down style. They are athletic enough to beat Oregon on the edges especially if Oregon tries to cover them man up. Defensively they will keep speed on the field to try and match the Ducks offense. Expect them to play man on the outsides and load the box while mixing blitzes to get the Ducks out of rhythm. I expect to see some zone blitzing, lots of stunting, and the linebackers looking to crash hard and fill gaps to stop the run. The Trojans have also been doing extra conditioning and playing more players throughout the year in an attempt to keep pace with Oregon late in the game. 

Smoking Gun: Here are the reasons that USC might not win this week. Defensively while the Trojans rank high in a lot of categories, look closer at the offenses they have faced. Stanford and Arizona dismantled the Trojan defense and Arizona State handled them easily as well. Each of these teams had success running and throwing the ball. While the Trojan defense looks good on paper lets go a little deeper in the stats. They rank #8 in Rushing Defense however they give up 3.51 yards per rushing attempt. That would put them somewhere around 30th. If you take it a step further they have only played one team that ranks in the Top 30 rushing offenses (Stanford #19). The Ducks in contrast yield 3.68 yards per rushing attempt but have played 3 Top 30 Rushing Offenses (Nevada #5, Stanford #19, and LSU #30). On Offense Oregon averages 6.79 Yards Per Attempt which is #1 by far and thats including a game vs the #3 Yards per rush defense in LSU. As far as passing defense goes allowing 6.77 yards per pass attempt and 63.75 completion percentage doesn't bode well considering Oregon is #12 in passing efficiency in the Country. Only Stanford which ranks #5 in Pass Efficiency is better in conference. Some other stats that haven't been talked about is that Oregon while ranked #63 in Total Defense is ranked #18 in yards per play allowed at 4.82. Utah is the only team in conference with a better average at 4.75 and they held the Trojans to 17 offensive points and 24 points for the game. Cal which give up 4.94 yards per game lost to USC 30-9 but if you look close Cal held the Trojans to 313 yards on offense. To USC's credit they did force 3 fumbles and 2 Int's. Here is one of the biggest stats that goes against USC, and that is they are ranked #61 in 3rd Down Defense Yielding 39.86% to their opponents. That is not good considering Oregon is ranked #39 in 3rd Down Conversions at 44.26%. Overall USC is ranked #49 in total defense but gives up 5.39 yards per play which would rank them #57. Oregon has played 3 defenses this year with better averages, LSU, Stanford, and Cal. 

The Verdict: USC though talented has not played a team like Oregon all year. Their defense is fast and good against the run at times and decent against the pass. They have enough playmakers to hang with Oregon but I'm not sure they have enough depth. If they can stay in a rhythm early, cause a few turnovers, and get an early lead they will take the Ducks into the 4th quarter. 

I look for Oregon to get after Barkley early and often on Defense. I fully expect to see Oregon shut down the running game and make Barkley beat them with his arm and feet out of the pocket. On offense look for the Ducks to attack USC's young linebacking corp with screens, misdirection, and the good ol Zone Read. I think they will balance attack in the first half and pound LaMichael James between the tackles in the second half. I think the weather plays a factor slowing both offenses a bit. This will be a good game for about a half and the Trojans could lead early but I think the Ducks defense will be too much for the Trojans and the Offense will turn it up in the 3rd quarter and pull away 38-17.

Thanks for reading!

The Fan