If all goes according to plan, the Ducks will meet the Trojans at the Coliseum with both teams entering the contest undefeated and with dreams of a BCS National Championship game in Miami. This is the key game for the Pac-12 in 2012 as it likely determines which team hosts the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game.
|Matt Barkley returns for the Trojans in 2012|
The return of Matt Barkley. Many experts expected Matt Barkley to declare for the NFL draft after his superb junior season. When starting offensive tackle Matt Kalil announced he was entering the NFL Draft many experts believed that the writing was on the wall and that Barkley would be right behind. In what some considered a surprise move, Barkley called a press conference to announce his desire to fulfil "unfinished business" in 2012 by returning for his senior season. From the moment Barkley announced his decision, USC was considered a front-runner for a shot at the National Championship Game.
Returning Starters: 9
Key returners: Matt Barkley, 6-2, 230, QB; Curtis McNeal, 5-7, 190, RB; Robert Woods, 6-1, 190, WR; Marquise Lee, 6-0, 190, WR
Key Losses: Matt Kalil, Left Tackle; Marc Tyler, RB; Rhett Ellison, FB
Key Arrivals: Zach Banner, 6-9, 310 Offensive Tackle; Jordan Simmons, 6-5, 333, Guard; Nelson Agholor, 6-2, 180, WR
The Trojans received a big boost with the return of Barkley. What promised to be a very good offense become one of the most potent in the nation with the return of Barkley. The Trojans have added to their already explosive receiving corps with the late commitment of Agholor. Even without Agholor, though, the combination of Woods and Lee proved deadly against a young Ducks secondary late in 2011.
The key loss is, of course, All-American Matt Kalil. Considered a top 5 overall player in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Trojans will need to find another tackle who can protect Barkley as well. That my be impossible, though, as Kalil did not surrender a single sack against in 2011. It is difficult to surpass perfection.
In addition to the explosive wide receivers and Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback, the Trojans also bring back 1000 yard rusher Curtis McNeal. Where the Trojans will have issues is certainly not with their starters. USC may have the most talented starting offense in the nation in 2012. IF there are any chinks in the armour, it is the depth at key positions. The only experienced running back beyond McNeal is D.J. Morgan who saw action in 10 games carrying the ball 42 times for 180 yards.
This team is built, though, around the passing game, where there is plenty of depth at wide receiver.
Early Offense Prediction: For the first 3 quarters plus against the Ducks in 2011, USC showed that they can score against Oregon. In fact, USC was able to keep the score close by hanging with the Ducks score-for-score through three quarters in 2010 as well. USC will attack the Ducks with a similar game plan to last season, throw quick passes to the wide receivers and then go over the top for the home run when the defense begins to cheat up. The Duck secondary, though, will have another year of seasoning under their belts and should play better than last season. Given that, expect that the Trojans will still be able to score anywhere from 28-34 points.
Returning Starters: 9
Key returners: Hayes Pullard, 6-1, 230, LB; Wes Horton, 6-5, 260, DE; Nickell Robey, 5-8, 165, Cornerback
Key Losses: Nick Perry, DE; Christian Tupou, DT; Chris Galippo, LB
Key Arrivals: Morgan Breslin, 6-3, 245, DE, Diablo Valley C.C.
The Trojan defense in 2011 was exceptional at times and less than exceptional at other times. One of the dilemmas that the Trojans faced on defense was lack of depth. Against the Ducks, that lack of depth began to be exploited int eh fourth quarter as the Ducks mounted a rally that almost brought them from a huge deficit to an implausible victory.
The key component missing for the Trojans will be leading pass rusher Nick Perry. Perry departed early to enter the 2012 NFL Draft. He took with him his production of 54 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Perry led the team in both tackles for loss and sacks in 2011. His ability to pressure quarterbacks will be sorely missed in 2012.
The Trojans do not find themselves empty, however, on the defensive side of the ball. Against the Ducks, USC started three freshman linebackers and all of them played well on the season. Hayes Pullard led USC with 81 total tackles which included 6.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.
The Trojans have the one thing needed to compete with the Ducks; speed in the back 7. The three linebackers and the secondary give the Trojans the ability to limit big plays. Monte Kiffin seemed to get his defense playing better in his second season with the Trojans. His complicated NFL defense took some getting used to for the players, but there seems to be a better grasp by the players.
|Nick Perry's departure is a big loss for the Trojan defense|
OREGON WILL WIN IF: If Oregon can establish their pace and tempo early and take the pressure of the running game with good crisp passes, sure hands by the receivers and use that to open up the run game, the Ducks have a chance to, once again, score above 35 on the Trojans. If the Ducks are able to put pressure on the Trojans early, that should also help the defense in their attempt to make USC more predictable and "pin their ears back" as they try to create pressure on Barkley and disrupt the timing in the passing game.
OREGON WILL LOSE IF: Conversely, if the Ducks cannot get their pace and tempo established early and the passing game cannot take advantage of the opportunities, expect USC to really begin to smell blood and attack the secondary. While Oregon will be a year more experienced, the Trojans still have a ton of weapons on the edge and they can make plays.
PREDICTED OUTCOME: This game is a classic toss-up at this point. The Trojans beat the Ducks in 2011, but that does not really predict 2012. If Bennett hits some passes earl;y and loosens up the running game early, the Ducks could build a comfortable lead and put the pressure on. This could also be a shoot-out with the teams trading scores in a classic "last team with the ball wins" scenario. At this point, given all things being equal and both teams healthy, the early edge goes to USC due to home field advantage.