• John Skinner

2016 Oregon Preview

Classic Trap Game: With a huge opportunity to redeem the season next week at #5 Washington and Oregon coming in with a 3-5 record, the Oregon game has all the makings of a look-ahead trap game that undisciplined football teams often lose.  Helton and staff must do everything in their power to remind the Trojans of the beating they took against Oregon last year (48-28 loss) and that Oregon is only a handful of plays away from being 6-2 (three losses by less than four points) and seem to finally have the right QB in place which makes them even more dangerous. . .

But have the Ducks quit on Helfrich?: Some pro scouts have heard rumblings the Oregon locker room is a mess and Head Coach Mark Helfrich is having a difficult time keeping the team on the same page. The victory the Ducks had last week over ASU does not prove much.  ASU was down to a third string QB and have locker room issues of their own.  If the Trojans get out to an early lead and the Oregon truly has internal issues, SC should have an opportunity to blow them out.

Darnold makes SC 14+ point better but he must protect the ball: If SC is going to finish 9-3 or 8-4, much of it will be due to Darnold’s brilliance.  Darnold has done a great job of re-incorporating the tight end into the offense, taking advantage of Smith-Schuster’s natural talent, and extending drives on offense by scrambling for a first down or completing a pass when a classic pocket passer would be sacked. In fact, some of the newfound success on defense can be attributed to Darnold since they have had very few short drives allowing the defense to get more rest.  However, he must do a better job protecting the ball, especially when the Trojans are on the road, if the Trojans are going to reach their potential.

Why Darnold won over the team so quickly:  The SC football team always respected Darnold’s ability. It went back to his play running the scout team last season and Sark calling him “Johnny Manziel with size”. However, his even keel/confident attitude and willingness to call out the selfish play of others is what allowed him to take over the leadership of the team so quickly. He was willing to call out JuJu Smith-Schuster in front of the whole team at halftime of the Utah game for not completing routes and pouting when he wasn’t getting the ball.  Smith Schuster has been on fire ever since.  Those leadership intangibles are worth many a touchdowns on the field. . .

Max Browne still may play an important role this season: Even though back-up QB Max Brown has made his intentions clear about transferring next season, he could still play a role in how this season plays out for the Trojans and that could have a dramatic impact on where he ends up next year.  Darnold plays an aggressive style and could very well be knocked out of a game and it is imperative that Browne is ready to step in and command the offense.  If he does well in that predicament, it will be a great way for him to end his SC career on a positive note and create even more opportunities for him next year.  Browne must stay focused and ready through November or it could cost him and SC dearly…

Pendergast 5-2 defense seems to create issues for spread offenses:  Clancy Pendergast has done a masterful job against the emerging spread offenses throughout his career as a defensive coordinator at Cal and now in his second stint at SC.  His 5-2 defense allows him to disguise new packages/wrinkles designed to frustrate the opposing quarterback of a read/react defense. Pendergast forces offensive coordinators into tough in-game adjustments that often force opponents to make a third or fourth option become a primary target.  Pendergast’s expertise will definitely be needed this week. Though Oregon is having one of its worst seasons in recent memory, they still possess one of the nation’s best offenses (16th nationally averaging 41 points and 519 yards per game) and most concerning to Trojan fans is they seem to have found a stud freshman QB Justin Herbert to give them the spark they have desperately needed at the position.  Herbert has only started three games but has 996 yards passing, 89 yards rushing, 13 TD’s and only 2 interceptions.

Key To The Game- Limit turnovers and play disciplined football: Ball security and senseless penalties will allow a potent Oregon offense to get momentum and provide the extra opportunities needed to beat SC.  SC should win the game comfortable if they play a disciplined football game.  Oregon’s defense is on par with Cal and SC still scored a ton of points against Cal despite playing a sloppy game.

Carol Skinner Memorial Tid-Bits:

*Trojan red-shirt freshman tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe has caught a touchdown pass in three straight games and is showing the athleticism that made him a four start recruit that reminds many of former SC great Fred Davis.

*SC is 1-4 in the last five meetings with Oregon, allowing 49 points and 618 yards per game in those losses.

*Opposing teams convert 46 percent of their third-down plays on Oregon, which ranks 11th in the Pac-12.

*The Ducks rank #127 in total and #124 in scoring defense…If SC doesn’t score at least 42 points something went terribly wrong…

*CB Jonathan Lockett is out so SC will have to make some adjustments to its nickel package. Look for Ajene Harris and Leon McQuay to fill the void.

*RB Aca’Cedric Ware was carted off the practice field on Tuesday with an ankle injury and is expected to miss the game.  With Justin Davis still likely out, the Trojans are very thin at RB and won’t have a good pass catching threat out of the backfield.  RB Ronald Jones could rush for 250+ yards this week against an atrocious Oregon run defense.  He had 223 yards rushing against Cal, who has the worst run defense in the country. . .