Photo by Scott Boldt
Oregon Football

Keys to the Game: Oregon Defense vs USC

October 30, 2019

The USC offense will be one of the best Oregon has had to face this season, and it is led by a supremely talented wide receiver group. But outside of the pass catchers, some of USC's best playmakers are banged up, so the Oregon defense will look to exploit certain weaknesses.

Let’s take a look at the three things I’ll be looking for Saturday if the Ducks are to have success defensively.

Strong Defensive Back Play

Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns already have 50 catches each on the season, and Amon-Ra St. Brown is third with 40. They have the best wide receiver unit in the Pac-12 – and one of the best in the country – and the success of this Air Raid-lite offense relies heavily on them to make plays.

Freshman QB Kedon Slovis loves to take shots downfield. If you’re able to take away the deep bomb, their offense tends to struggle in sustaining drives.

Deommodore Lenoir and Thomas Graham Jr. will be tested early and often, and it’ll be critical that they are able to stay with the wide receivers and make plays. The Trojans' wide receivers are almost impossible to stop completely, but you have to try to limit them.

Safeties Jevón Holland and Nick Pickett must not allow any wide receiver to get behind them. They’ll also need to break on the ball quickly and help break up a few passes.

I for one am really excited to see this matchup.

Apply Interior Pressure

I know it’s a cliché to say the defensive line needs to attack the quarterback, but after seeing Oregon struggle to sack Anthony Gordon last week, that truism needs to be repeated. It’s going to be big for guys like Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu to collapse the pocket from the inside, allowing the edge rushers to get home.

Scott has done everything you could’ve asked for and then some this season, but he still has room to improve his pass rush. Faoliu has flashed at times this season, but it would be huge to see him step up and make a few more plays in passing situations.

If you don’t allow Slovis time in the pocket to throw it up to his talented receivers, it would create a lot of problems for the Trojans offense.

Make the Physical Advantage Count

The Trojans are dealing with a plethora of injuries on both sides of the ball, and on the offensive line they could be down a few key guys.

It’s getting to be late in the season, and most teams are banged up – even if we don’t hear about it. But now is the time for the Ducks to impose their will on the Trojans' depleted roster.

We’ve seen this defense grow by leaps and bounds this season. If Oregon really wants to cement its identity as a defensive football team, this is the perfect prime-time opportunity.

If the Ducks can take away the Trojans' running game (USC ranks 86th in the country with fewer than 150 yards per game), they should be able to focus on besting the Trojans' struggling offensive line and forcing Slovis to hurry his throws.

And USC is tied for 116th in the country in having the most passes intercepted.

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