If you happened to tune into the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans game this week, and you enjoy offense you were treated to a real show. It seems this season in college football there are really only 2 types of top teams. The ones that can score a ton of points in a hurry but give them up almost as quickly, and the ones that can smother their opponents with defense, but struggle to score themselves. And so when the Ducks and the Trojans squared off yesterday, we learned something about both of these teams going forward.
What we learned about the Trojans: We learned that they have a legit passing offense. If all you have seen all season are box scores, then you probably don’t understand what they means, but USC has put up tremendous numbers in the passing game, but it hasn’t been based on deep routes and long throws. Quarterback Matt Barkley is excellent as working underneath routes and short zone routes and allows his talented pass catchers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to make short catches and then long runs.
It’s a lot like how West Virginia is able to move the ball so quickly. But this weekend the Trojans coaching staff saw something in the film about the Oregon secondary and since the Ducks weren’t able to generate any real pass rush, Barkley was able to stand in and let his wide outs get deep where they were open. This was something we really hadn’t seen much of this season and you could see the Ducks weren’t ready.
We also learned that the Trojans defense, while athletic and well coached, don’t have the elite speed we’ve come to expect from them. Consistently they were beaten to the edge on the sweep play and even downfield when they had a good angle they weren’t able to make the play. This is really not as much of a criticism as it could be when you consider that the Ducks offense is the most explosive in all of college football. The USC football program has been playing games for 124 years and this was the first time they have ever allowed more than 60 points. A remarkable statistic really.
What we learned about the Ducks: We learned that the Ducks defense isn’t as good as we thought it was. I think most pundits and writers felt like of the high powered offenses near the top of the polls, the Ducks were the ones who could play defense. But they were exposed last night, and looking ahead to a possible BCS Championship game, any potential opponent is going to look at how the Trojans were able to get behind the Ducks secondary and even in the run game they were able to get pushed around up front and struggled to contain running back Silas Redd. The good news for the Ducks is among the the other top teams in the BCS, there isn’t a team on the list that can move the football through the air like the Trojans can.
But on offense it was business as usual, and even against a defense like USC that can play, the Ducks were practically unstoppable. However, as I go back and re-watch more Oregon games, I call into question what would happen is someone did get the formula for that run game. There are certainly defenses in the country who are big and physical enough to push the Ducks offensive line around, even if they aren’t athletic enough to run with players like De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. Can this Oregon offense throw it if forced to, rather than at their leisure? A coach like Nick Saban might be the best game plan guy in the history of college football. Can we really think that given a month to prepare he won’t find a way with all those athletes on defense to force the Ducks to beat them passing the football? Food for thought.
Ultimately after USC and Oregon wrapped it up on Saturday we learned that Oregon is still the most dynamic offense in the country but their defense is a little more suspect than some originally believed. For USC we learned they do have a deep passing game if they choose to use it, but their defense has some questions to answer before the season is over. All in all, a game like this is the kind I like to watch and I have evolved a lot in the last 5 seasons when I banged the drum for great defense and plodding offenses. Give me shootouts every time.
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