Tag:Chip Kelly
Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Keys to the game: UCLA at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

UCLA WILL WIN IF: The Bruins need a lot to happen if they're going to pull off the improbable and win the first ever Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Again, they need a lot to happen if last week's loss to USC was any indication. The defense needs stops of course, allowing big plays to Oregon will not only kill them on the scoreboard but severely hamper their ability to come back with an offense that is built to run and can't really throw. The Pistol can give defenses problems if not prepared and it's possible the Ducks don't take the Bruins too seriously given that it's a home game against a .500 team. Toss in some special teams play and there's a slim chance UCLA wins.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: Just do what they tend to do to conference teams - run around them. UCLA is not exactly the marquee opponent Oregon fans (or Larry Scott for that matter) were hoping for once they beat Stanford to essentially win the Pac-12 and host the first ever championship game. Chip Kelly won't mind making a statement, especially one that features (if completely healthy) LaMichael James as he tries to make it to New York once again. The Bruins figure to run the ball so the defense will have to be prepared and should use the preparation for one of the Big Ten teams they'll face in the Rose Bowl.

X-FACTOR: Special teams. If UCLA can make a few plays in the return game (they might have plenty of chances) they could make things closer than many expect. Field position will be crucial for the offense as they likely look to control the clock and keep the ball out of the Ducks hands. Turn the ball over or allow a big return or two and this could get out of hand quickly. The Bruins have their backs against the wall so don't be surprised if they try a few trick plays as well.
Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:00 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 49, Oregon State 21

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WON. The Beavers had won just three games all year but that didn't mean they were to be taken lightly by the Ducks in the Civil War. It looked like Oregon came out flat and uninspired early in the game however, missing several chances to easily take control of the game with two early interceptions of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion. But, as they've done countless times, a few quick scoring drives put the game away as home team not only won their traditional rivalry game but put up some style points heading into next week's Pac-12 Championship game. 

WHY OREGON WON: The defense did a good job against Mannion and the Beavers' passing attack but Darron Thomas starting hitting his targets in the second quarter to really get the offense going. A week after having his struggles against USC in the first home loss ever under Chip Kelly, Thomas tossed touchdown passes to David Paulson, De'Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner and Colt Lyerla on the way to a 25 for 38 and 295 yard day. LaMichael James had no issues on the ground, rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown before hurting his wrist late in the third quarter.

WHEN OREGON WON: After two interceptions, Mannion bounced back with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Jovan Stevenson to even the score at 7-all. The Ducks came right back and turned on the jets with a few big plays on back-to-back scoring drives of 75+ yards led mostly by Thomas' passing. Oregon added a third touchdown drive right before halftime to put things away as it was much of the same in the second half - all green, all the time.

WHAT OREGON WON: The win secured the North division for the Ducks and hosting duties for the first ever Pac-12 Championship Game, which will be Friday at Autzen. Though they are out of the national title race - baring complete and utter chaos - the Rose Bowl is still a pretty good consolation prize for Oregon. Beat UCLA next week and flower shops around Eugene will be out of red roses.

WHAT OREGON STATE LOST: Another loss in a disappointing season as the Beavers fall to 3-9 in 2011. Mike Riley certainly had higher expectations but the team had to replace a lot from last year's mediocre squad and it showed. Although James Rodgers has now played his final game in orange, it's an encouraging sign for the offense to see the progress Mannion has made in the passing game as a redshirt freshman. The defense needs a lot of work as well, just one of many things to work on in what should be a long offseason.

Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 20, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 12:31 am
 

QUICK HITS: USC 38, Oregon 35

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WINS. On probation and disrespected, USC was going up to Eugene with nothing but house money to play with. Obviously they were talented - Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and the dynamic newcomer Marqise Lee especially - but they were significant underdogs against an Oregon team that had blown them out their previous two meetings. The Trojans hadn't won in the state of Oregon since 2005* and taken two brutal losses this year to the other top teams in the Pac-12.

USC jumped out to a big lead and held on late as Oregon rallied to within three but pulled off a monumental upset with far-reaching implications after Alejandro Maldonado missed a field goal of 37 yards to preserve a 38-35 win. Two streaks - 21 straight home wins and 19 straight conference victories - were snapped for the Ducks, as were their slim hopes of getting back to the national championship game.

WHY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. Marqise Lee had the best game a Trojan has had in years, finishing with eight catches for 187 yards and a touchdown and made play after play after play when the team needed it. Barkley was big as well, throwing for 323 yards and four touchdowns to get a signature win to hold his hat on in what could be his final year wearing the cardinal and gold. Monte Kiffin's defense also played its part, forcing two fumbles to prevent scores, blocking a punt and containing the Oregon speedsters all night to limit big plays.

WHEN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. Coming out of the second half, Oregon went three and out, had their punt blocked and set USC up with a 1st and goal. But the Ducks' defense held the Trojans to just a field goal on the drive - and nearly picked off Barkley - then got a big return from De'Anthony Thomas on the ensuing kick return for a touchdown. It seemed like the momentum had completely flipped at that point, with the Autzen crowd coming alive and LaMichael James capped off a four play drive with a touchdown.

USC came back with an impressive answer on a five play, 76 yard drive in just over two minutes to keep the lead where it was. Monte Kiffin's defense got a stop and it was upset alert with a silent crowd up in Eugene after Barkley found Randal Telfer for a touchdown on the next series to give Oregon their biggest deficit since 2008. The Ducks came roaring back however, scoring 21 straight. It looked like things were headed for overtime with Oregon marching down the field after Barkley fumbled handing off to running back Marc Tyler. Some curious clock management by Chip Kelly left Maldonado with a 37 yard field goal and he missed it to preserve a 38-35 win.

WHAT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WON. With just one more game left as they serve out their final year of a bowl ban, the Trojans didn't have much more than pride to play for Saturday night. They felt disrespected - the lowest ranking in school history with a 8-2 record - and determined to get back in the national conscious in a big way with their first win in the state of Oregon since 2005. Lane Kiffin's squad jumped out to the early lead and hung on just like so many others haven't. Everybody came into this game saying it was USC's bowl game (their third this season after Notre Dame and Stanford) and they won it to show quite a few people around the country what they're made of.

WHAT OREGON LOST. Given Kelly's persona and his continuous focus on the task at hand, you wonder if he got Phil Knight to pony up some cash to fly in Jim Mora to shout, "Rematch? You're talking about a rematch? You kidding me? Rematch? I just hope we win a game," over and over. That's all everybody was thinking about after beating Stanford, not USC but LSU. Despite an Oklahoma State loss that made a game against the Tigers more likely, Oregon couldn't put the game at hand away and now have to beat rival Oregon State to secure the Pac-12 championship game that looked like a lock at the beginning of the day.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Team Nike filled the sidelines as NBA All-Stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul all made their way down to Eugene to check out the football game. LeBron was even throwing the ball around during pre-game warm ups until politely being told by security to move back behind the lines. What's a jobless guy have to do to get some respect? Ducks fans might just be glad he wasn't suited up to play the 4th quarter. Or maybe he was.




Posted on: November 18, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 4:47 pm
 

USC WR Woods a game-time decision vs. Ducks

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

USC may or may not be without their most consistent offensive playmaker when they face Oregon in Autzen Stadium this Saturday.

Trojan wideout Robert Woods, the nation's ninth-leading receiver, did not practice Thursday and is a gametime decision against the Ducks. Lane Kiffin said he would decide whether or not Woods would play after seeing him in pre-game warmups.

“I’m going to have to see speed, that he can go, that he can get in and out of breaks and be able to play at a high level for us,” Kiffin said.

Woods is nursing both a serious ankle injury and a sore shoulder. But for his part, Woods said he would be ready to play come Saturday.

"Some days it feels good, some days it feels bad," Woods said of the ankle. "The shoulder is aggravated as well ... [Kiffin] has the final word but I feel good enough, ready to go. He’s the one calling the personnel but you know I’m definitely in his ear trying to get on the field."

Kiffin said Wednesday, though, that Woods is "always going to say" he could play, and that he would not jeopardize his player's long-term health if he wasn't fit to perform. Kiffin also added that as of Wednesday, Woods "wasn't getting better."

So will Woods play, or not? On the one hand, he hasn't practiced, wasn't his usual self last week vs. Washington, and Kiffin has come by his reputation as a players' coach honestly; if Woods really isn't ready, we don't expect Kiffin to push it.

But Kiffin is also not above a little pregame gamesmanship, particularly considering that taking down the No. 4 Ducks on the road would be the biggest win of Kiffin's Trojan tenue to-date. If Woods is secretly heatlhy enough to play Saturday, Kiffin gains nothing from telling Chip Kelly that--and frankly, Woods is good enough and has been around long enough that letting him sit out practice to get that much closer to 100 percent makes more sense than forcing him through drills.

So if we had to wager, we'd put money on the Trojan's best playmaker not having to sit out the Trojans' biggest game of the year. But a this stage, we can't say we'd be shocked if he sat, either.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:06 pm
 

DODDCAST: Penn State's next coach, Heisman, more

Posted by Chip Patterson

What kind of coach is/should Penn State be looking for to replace Joe Paterno? Is Derek Dooley among the many coaches facing a hot seat down the stretch of the 2011 season? Check out Dennis Dodd's answers to these questions and much more in the Week 12 edition of The Doddcast.

Oregon made a splash with their impressive victory at Stanford on Saturday, but how likely is their shot at a national title? Dennis and Adam Aizer also discuss the hypothetical LSU-Oklahoma State national championship game, and give their opinions on who would win the showdown of styles.

Also, Dennis takes a moment to discuss his recent conversation with NCAA President Mark Emmert and weigh in on the controversial Jerry Sandusky interview from Monday night on NBC.
Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer. 



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Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Keys to the game: USC at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Trojans have retooled on defense with faster linebackers and are better equipped to handle the Ducks speed than they have been in previous years. Creating stops are as important as containing big plays and getting the ball back to an offense that has more weapons than anybody Oregon has seen all years. The emergence of Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have given a nice boost to the running game and they'll need to continue to have Robert Woods and Marqise Lee making big plays if USC wants to pull off the upset.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The game plan is always the same for the Ducks, apply pressure by scoring quickly on offense and apply pressure - more literally - on defense by being aggressive with the front seven. Chip Kelly was very aggressive against Stanford and we'll see if he continues to keep that up against a team that has a lot more athletes that can create big plays on both sides of the ball. Oregon is in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl and could even be playing for a rematch in the BCS title game so don't be surprised if they want some style points on national television and for Heisman Trophy candidiate LaMichael James.

X-FACTOR: Matt Barkley turnovers. USC has been in games with Oregon for a half but, like most of the Ducks opponents, have fallen apart in the second half. If Matt Barkley continues to be efficient in the passing game and spreads the ball around to his receivers, the Trojans have a chance. If he turns the ball over once or twice though, it will be hard to see an upset. The margin is just that thin for this team but no doubt they have the talent to get a win if Barkley plays well.

Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 11



Posted by Bryan Fischer


The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.

People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.

And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.

The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.

The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.

"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.

Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.

As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.

Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.

Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.

Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.

Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.

When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.

BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.

Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.

Stat of the week

Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.

Stats of the week

- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.

- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.

- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.

- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.

- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.

Tweet of the week

"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."

- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Oklahoma

6. Arkansas

7. Stanford

8. Boise State

9. Clemson

10. Georgia

Where we'll be this week

Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.

Leaning this way

Nebraska at Michigan

This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.

SMU at Houston

A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.

USC at Oregon

Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com