“Kenny Wheaton’s Keys” -Game Day Drive- Oregon vs. USC

Is it November 3rd yet???? It’s time to get excited! Kick Off is less than 24 hours away. In case you aren’t in the loop on all the hype, this is the game All Duck fans (and players) have been waiting for.  Last year,  The USC Trojans beat the Ducks at Autzen, spoiling their chances at another National Championship. This year, that beloved Natty is again on the line. THIS IS A BIG GAME.  Honestly, there is so much to write about, I didn’t even know where to begin.  Of course most Duck and Trojan sportswriters have broken down the stats and tried to come up with some kind of prediction.  I do promise to give you my prediction, but as you know this gridiron girl likes to keep it simple and fun!

Before I bust out the Game Day Drive, I need to take a quick detour. Given how important Oregon’s defense will be in this game (more on that later), I decided to check in with my favorite Duck legend,  and Football 101, A Girly Guide to the Game co-host, Kenny Wheaton.   If you don’t know who he is, first of all I’m concerned about your Duck fan status. Second of all, Google him.  I figured Kenny, with all his defensive genius, might have some “Keys to the Game”. Thankfully he did, and here they are:

  1. Defense. Oregon’s defense has to stop USC’s run game (Running Backs) and put pressure on the Quarterback (Matt Barkley).  Most teams will try to do that by Blitzing and sending the safeties to help the line get at the QB. This won’t work against SC because that would “open up” the USC receivers (leave them wide open to catch passes). The safeties will have to be on point and not miss any tackles (on the receivers), but the D-line and linebackers’ performance will be critical. They will have to put pressure on Matt Barkley.
  1. Deep Passes. Marcus Mariota will have to make 5-6 big throws down the field. We haven’t seen him do that much this year, but he will have to do it this game. Teams will attack each other’s weaknesses, and Oregon hasn’t shown an ability to have a huge passing game. If Mariota and the Receivers can pull that off, it should throw off USC, who won’t expect a strong passing game.

To tie things up, I asked Kenny how he felt Oregon had improved after losing to USC last year, and how that might help them during this year’s match up. He told me “Last year, SC was the better team. Oregon wasn’t respecting them as much as they should have because of their set-backs, etc. This year, Oregon’s not taking anyone lightly. Oregon’s defense is much stronger now and able to stop the run”.

Basically, USC’s Quarterback, Matt Barkley is experienced and at the beginning of the season was the top Heisman candidate.  Not only that, but he led his team to victory over the Ducks last season- something no other team was able to do.  Then, there’s other problem- Wide Receivers, Marquise Lee and Robert Woods,  the two players I wish the Ducks didn’t have play against.  I’ve been watching them all year and honestly I might need a Xanex.  So, Kenny’s “Keys” are right. The Ducks will have to put pressure on Matt Barkley to keep him from passing to Lee and Woods especially.  No doubt, they will get the ball, but if there’s any way to minimize their time with it, the Ducks need to bring it, or it could mean another sad day in Duck Nation.

Now on to the short- and- sweet Game Day Drive….

1st Down-“Behind the Scenes”

I’ve probably talked about this a thousand times, but one of the best stories about this match-up is De’Anthony Thomas. He grew up in South Central L.A, and was believed destined to play at USC. He had been verbally committed to play there for years, before visiting Oregon just before singing day in 2011, and changing his mind. Rumor has it, he loved the bling and “flavor” and felt a change from L.A would be good. I think it goes without saying, we are happy he made his way to Oregon, but the last minute USC snub has created a really fun story line.  Last year, DAT played his heart out, but it wasn’t enough to get the Duck win.  This year, I’m sure he’ll be an even stronger player, but one many Trojans know they have to watch out for.  That is why I actually think Kenjon Barner, who recently told me this was his most anticipated match-up,  is one of MY key’s to the game.  I expect USC to focus in on DAT, many having played against him in high school, and knowing his threat.  That should open up Barner to quietly stack up yards, as he has done all year.

2nd Down- “X’s and O’s”

This is review, but really important for tomorrow’s game…

Strong Safety-  The guys that block the receivers and keep them from catching the ball.

3rd Down- “What to Watch”

  1. The Whole Game. For the first time this year, expect for Oregon’s first string to stay in the game for the entire game. This will not be a blow out and every play will matter.
  2. Safeties. In particular, watch for Avery Patterson and Ifo Ekpre Olomu  to break up passes all night- I hope. These guys will have a big job tomorrow and I can’t wait to see how they handle it.
  3. Marcus Mariota. Duh. This is a big game for a freshman QB. First of all, the Coliseum isn’t necessarily a welcoming place. The crowd will be rowdy and will want nothing more than to see the Ducks fall. The Trojan’s have all but lost their chance at the National Championship and will want nothing more than to take down the only other likely PAC 12 contender. Watch for Mariota to bring his Island Finesse though- keeping it chill and throwing some deep passes. Also watch for him to take off with the ball himself once in a while.
  4. Trick Plays. If there were ever a time for Chip Kelley to bring some tricks out of the bag, this would be it.
  5. Matt Barkley and his team of AMAZING receivers. Watch how, and if, Oregon is able to stop them. (I’m scared, I can admit it). Watch for Barkley to get sacked at least a couple of times. It will happen.
  6. Kenjon Barner and DAT. Watch for both to show their stuff. Most commentators have held back when complimenting Oregon because they are waiting to see how they do against USC. With both Barner and DAT in the Heisman discussion, they know what’s on the line, and who’s watching. Kenjon and “Yo Dat 6” (as my 6 year-old likes to call him): You got this.

4th Down- “Prediction”

Honestly, I don’t even know where to go with this. On one hand, Oregon shut out Arizona who then beat USC. But you just never know.  I think USC has a serious passing game with their QB and top Receivers, and the Ducks don’t always do so well with that- for example the first half against Wazzu.  So, it’s hard to say.  I do think the Ducks will come out on top  after a high scoring game.

Ducks 37   USC 30

Go Ducks!

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