USC-Oregon: It’s All About Tackling
As match ups go, this isn’t exactly a USC dream scenario.
The most difficult team to tackle in America against an opponent that, until its last game, was tackling as poorly as any group in the country.
The Oregon Blurs vs. the USC Whiffs.
More than any game in recent memory, this one comes down to football’s two basic fundamentals: blocking and, especially, tackling. You know Oregon coach Chip Kelly will spread the field as much as he can on offense, challenging the Trojans to tackle people one-on-one.
If USC isn’t any better at it than its been most of this season, they might need a calculator to keep up with all the Ducks’ points blinking away on the Coliseum scoreboard.
Lane Kiffin and his dad, Monte, understand. That’s why they dropped their no-tackle-for-fear-of-injury policy in practice these past two weeks, pushing linebackers and defensive backs to tackle anything in the general vicinity.
Doing it in practice, of course, is one thing. Doing it against LaMichael James in a game is something else.
It’s not like Oregon hasn’t had a few bumps along its undefeated road so far. Arizona State gave the Ducks fits in Tempe, and Stanford sprinted out to a 21-3 lead before finally succumbing in Nike Land.
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that Kelly’s kids are not nearly as imposing on the road as they are at home, where the decibel level is so high they have to close their windows in Anchorage.
Still, it all comes down to tackling. If the Trojans can make their share, force the Ducks into some three and outs, well, this could turn into one memorable shoot out.
Because USC will score its share of points, too. Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, Ronald Johnson and Co. are just starting to come into their own. They put up 42 against Cal in 30 minutes and could have finished with 75 if Kiffin hadn’t rushed in the reserves in the second half.
Oregon’s defense isn’t as intimidating as its offense, which is why oddsmakers have made the over-under figure a nice, round 70 on Saturday night.
So if the final score winds up something like 42-37, who wins?
We’ll tackle that one when we get to it.
PICKS OF THE WEEK: This is why you don’t want to make football picks: You have one of the two or three best defenses in the NFL, playing at home up against the 30th ranked offense lasts week. So what happens? Baltimore allows Buffalo to score 24 points. In the first half! The Bills somehow finish with 509 yards of total offense, so naturally, while the Ravens manage to pull out the overtime victory, they don’t cover. Oh well. At least Michigan State got off the floor after being down 17-0 to come back and beat Northwestern by eight, salvaging a 1-1 week for us.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS:
ARIZONA (minus eight) at UCLA — The Wildcats might be the most underrated team in America. They’re 6-1, only two points away from being unbeaten and only two teams have scored more than two touchdowns against them. They knocked off Iowa and currently have the 10th ranked defense in the country. UCLA, meanwhile, is staggering around looking like it might fall off the cliff any week. The Bruins have lost their quarterback, their middle linebacker and any mojo they might have had a few weeks ago. Besides, they are a one-dimensional team that will try to run the ball against the Pac-10’s best run defense. Good luck with that.
JETS (minus 6) vs. PACKERS — If, like me, you believe the AFC is considerably stronger than the NFC, this is a game to prove it. Green Bay barely beat a broken down Brett Favre and the Vikings with its all-pass, no-run offense. The Jets defense, rested after a bye, will be coming after Aaron Rodgers from all angles, and Mark Sanchez, L.T. and the guys should be able to score plenty of points at home.
RECORD LAST WEEK: 1-1 OVERALL RECORD: 7-6-1
— STEVE BISHEFF