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No. 18 USC vs. No. 4 Oregon

Pass happy

The Trojans find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being a sizable underdog for the second time in one season.

November 19, 2011|Gary Klein
  • Although Stanford defensive end Matthew Masifilo was able to foce a fumble by Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas on this play, Thomas and the Ducks rolled to a 53-30 victory in Palo Alto last week.
Although Stanford defensive end Matthew Masifilo was able to foce a fumble… (Beck Diefenbach / Reuters )

USC seeks to end a five-game slide in the state of Oregon. The Ducks are trying to return to the Bowl Championship Series title game. Staff writer Gary Klein examines the game's issues and matchups:

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Leading men

With Stanford's Andrew Luck having failed to solve the Oregon Ducks, USC quarterback Matt Barkley has an opportunity to show that he is worthy of Heisman Trophy discussion.

Barkley has passed for 29 touchdowns and had six passes intercepted, but he won't have all of his weapons at full strength against the Ducks.

Sophomore receiver Robert Woods, who ranks fifth nationally in receptions, was held out of practice this week because of ankle and shoulder issues. Woods is expected to play but could be limited.

Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas has passed for 22 touchdowns and had five passes intercepted. And even when Thomas sat out against Colorado on Oct. 22 because of a leg injury, freshman Bryan Bennett showed during Thomas' absence that the Ducks could still win big.

Little big men

Oregon running back LaMichael James, who is averaging a nation-leading 150.9 yards rushing a game, has been especially tough on the Trojans.

Two years ago, he rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown in a Ducks' victory. Last season at the Coliseum, James ran for 239 yards and three touchdowns in another rout.

USC tailback Curtis McNeal is coming off a career-best 148-yard rushing effort against Washington, the third time in four games that he eclipsed the 100-yard mark.

Marc Tyler, slowed by injuries for several games, appears to be back at full strength and could provide the Trojans with a big-back presence if weather becomes an issue.

X-factors

Both teams have a game-changing freshman capable of influencing the outcome.

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas, who spurned USC for the Ducks after starring at Crenshaw High, has accounted for 1,497 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns -- five rushing, seven receiving and one on a kickoff return.

USC's Marqise Lee, who has eight touchdown receptions, returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown last week against Washington.

Spread it out

USC is a sizable underdog for the second time in five weeks.

Notre Dame opened as a 10-point favorite on Oct. 22 -- before the Trojans scored a 31-17 victory at South Bend, Ind.

Oregon is a 15-point favorite.

"I don't think many of these kids signed up thinking they were going to be double-digit underdogs a couple times a year, so it's a different role to be in," Kiffin said. "Someday we won't be in this role."

Hold that line

Oregon's offensive line has yielded seven sacks and creates space for the nation's fifth-best rushing attack.

USC's offensive line has given up six sacks and leads the way for a rushing attack that ranks 50th.

Oregon, averaging 3.2 sacks a game, has intercepted 12 passes. Rover Eddie Pleasant, a former La Palma Kennedy High standout, has three interceptions.

USC, averaging 2.3 sacks, has eight interceptions.

Quick hits

USC leads the series against Oregon, 37-18-2 Walk-on safety Troy Cardona is the only player from Oregon on USC's roster. The Ducks have 48 Californians.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX

Trojans 8-2, 5-2 Pac-12

Ducks 9-1, 7-0 Pac-12

*--* PER GAME USC ORE. Points scored 34.1 46.7 Points given up 24.8 21.7 Passing offense 278.4 206.5 Rushing offense 166.3 291.8 Passing defense 263.4 236.7 Rushing defense 100.4 147.2 *--*

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