Sunday, November 4, 2012

What we learned from Oregon vs USC

The Oregon Ducks were finally tested for 4 quarters against a quality opponent on the road. The Ducks travelled to the famed Coliseum, took USC's best punch and prevailed with another victory that was 17 points until the final second of the game. The game was never really in doubt and the Ducks never trailed but USC put up a valiant fight worthy of praise. The Trojans never quit fighting but in the end they were outmatched by an opponent that is equally as athletic and superiorly coached. I would not be surprised if we see a rematch next month and I look forward to it.

USC's offense did teach us that the Ducks defense still has plenty of room for improvement. This was USC's best offensive performance in 2012 and Oregon made plenty of mistakes to help the Trojans. Oregon had 79 yards of penalties, a few questionable pass interference calls, but most disturbingly gave up almost 500 yards in the air. It wasn't just the yards, but the fact that everyone knew going in that USC was going to pass the ball. Now I'll give credit to Kiffen for creating mismatches and using Lee in a fashion he has seldom in two years.

That being said Oregon took some bad angles in the secondary, the D Line struggled not only getting penetration, but also did a really poor job of tackling overall. There were some good moments but overall USC's offensive line easily outplayed Oregon upfront. USC's receivers played well and were assisted by a few drive extending (phantom) calls but that's how it goes when you are on the road. Avery Patterson made a fundamental mistake on a deep ball to Agholor going for the pick instead of laying the receiver on his back. The mistake on that play was a TD for USC and kept the momentum going. Brian Jackson misplayed a TD by Lee but it appeared IEO failed to jam properly or there was a miscommunication in the coverage. IEO fell after initial contact with Lee but either way Jackson still had a chance to impede Lee on that play but simply let him run by and ended up getting beat badly for a TD.

On the defensive front Oregon got beat up with injury's to multiple players including Dion Jordan, and failed to force Barkley into too many bad decisions. They were able to get to him a few times and forced a INT twice but one was called pass interference. The pressure was not consistent but at the end of the day they did get the job done. This was a tough and gritty performance but Oregon will need to play better up front to compete down the stretch with Stanford and Oregon State which also have physical offensive fronts.

The biggest concern that I have is this is only the second Pro Style offense Oregon has faced and they exposed some major holes in the defense. Oregon State and Stanford both run a similar Pro Style offense and could post some major difficulties to Oregon if things don't improve. The last point of concern is Oregon has yet to play an elite run defense. Stanford ranks #1 and Oregon State #5 against the run in the FBS which Oregon will play the last two weeks of the regular season.

Here are the biggest takeaways for me from the USC Game:

1) Oregon can play at a high level offensively for 4 quarters.
2) Mariota can play on the road, question now is can he do it after a big game against a lesser opponent.
3) Defense still has room for improvement.
4) Pro Style offenses may pose a bigger challenge to Oregon than spread offenses. This may be due to Oregon's emphasis on speedy defense.
5) Defense can make key plays and deal with attrition.
6) Marquise Lee is the best college receiver since Calvin Johnson.
7) Ifo Ekpre-Olomu can match up with Marquise Lee one on one. I would say besides a few questionable pass interference calls and giving up inside leverage near in the red zone, IEO played him as good as you can.
8) USC has elite talent, just not elite coaching.
9) Barner is a legitimate threat to win the Heisman.
10) DAT is elite but maybe the 3rd best offensive player on the team.
11) Everyone is going to give Oregon its best shot, especially when the Ducks are on the road.
12) Ducks have what it takes to be a contender.

I'm not sure if the Ducks would beat Bama yet, but I'm feeling more confident about it. Bama runs a pro style offense with big running backs behind a huge offensive line. They are dominant on defense especially the front seven. Their linebackers go between 240lbs - 265lbs and can run, but LSU showed the Bama defense can be vulnerable in the latter part of the game. It would be an epic battle and I'm beginning to think Oregon could wear them down over the course of the game but it won't happen unless Oregon wins out.

Thanks for reading,

The Fan

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