Stack up: Oregon and USC enter Saturday carrying four-game win streaks
Just over a month ago, USC and Oregon were two teams that had not lived up to expectations. The Trojans crawled their way to a 3-3 record and experienced turnover at the head coaching position after Steve Sarkisian was fired. Oregon’s season moved along in similar fashion, and with Vernon Adams Jr. impaired by a finger injury, the Ducks started the year 3-3 for the first time in over a decade.
But things have changed. Saturday’s contest features two ranked opponents and a Trojans team that is in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 South. In addition, Oregon is coming off Saturday’s upset against then-No. 7 Stanford.
Expect an entertaining game at Autzen Stadium this week, one that is not short on offensive playmakers. The combination of Cody Kessler and Juju Smith-Schuster will be the next quarterback-wide receiver tandem to test a young Oregon secondary.
And on offense for Oregon is a group that only seems to be becoming more lethal. The unit scored 38 points on just 48 plays against Stanford, and racing past the Cardinal’s defenders.
Here’s how Oregon and USC stack up:
Oregon offense vs. USC defense
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said “time will tell” whether Vernon Adams Jr. is validating himself as the best quarterback in the Pac-12 after Saturday’s 38-36 win over Stanford. Adams went 10-of-12 for 205 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly manned an offense that appears to be humming like one of the best in the country. The Ducks are averaging 532.6 yards per game and have a chorus of options that will give USC’s defensive coordinator headaches just thinking about.
However, USC has one of the more stout defenses in the conference. The Trojans are allowing just 22.7 points per game and linebacker Su’a Cravens is a semifinalist for the Butkus and Bednarik awards. However, the injury bug could hurt them when they head to Eugene. USC linebackers Cameron Smith and Lamar Dawson will likely be out after sustaining injuries in the Trojans’ win over Colorado last Friday.
USC offense vs. Oregon defense
The Trojans have had what Helfrich termed “hiccups” this year, but the talent on offense may be the best Oregon faces all year. Out wide, the Ducks’ cornerbacks will face off against a pair of receivers — Smith-Schuster and Adoree’ Jackson — that have combined for 87 receptions, 1,542 yards and 12 touchdowns. What’s more, Jackson plays a role similar to the Ducks’ Charles Nelson.
“Adoree Jackson is kind of their Charles Nelson that plays offense, that plays defense, that plays special teams,” Helfrich said. “All of that at a very, very high level.”
True freshman Ugo Amadi, who replaced Tyree Robinson at cornerback after the redshirt junior left last Saturday with an ankle injury, will likely be tested by Kessler frequently. Arrion Springs, who continues to improve, will likely be challenged equally.
Regardless, the matchup between USC’s offense and Oregon’s defense figures to be competitive, especially considering the threat the Ducks’ front seven continues to pose. The group has accumulated 29 sacks this season and ranks in the top half of the conference in rushing yards allowed.
Follow Justin Wise on Twitter @JustinFWise