USC: Cliff Harris

First look: Oregon

November, 15, 2011
All year, USC coach Lane Kiffin has done a masterful job of hyping up each week's opponent for the Trojans, giving the best possible evaluation of the team the Trojans face on a weekly basis.

OregonUSCIt's an old coaching strategy, one many of the younger college football coaches in the country now employ exhaustively. The goal is to raise the potential reward for beating the team in questionand lower the risk for losing.

Kiffin, the Trojans' second-year coach, didn't have to do that so much against Oregon this week.

But he still tried.

"It's hard to argue that they're not the hottest team in the country right now," Kiffin said Sunday of the fourth-ranked Ducks.

His evidence? They've beaten every team they've faced this season -- save for LSU, of course -- by at least two touchdowns. They just beat then-No. 4 Stanford by 23 in Palo Alto. And their 13-point loss to LSU to start off the season was a tough scenario, taking place in a supposed neutral site that favored the Tigers and playing without the services of top special-teamer and cornerback Cliff Harris.

To date, that game is the only time Oregon running back LaMichael James hasn't gotten at least four yards per carry. Freshman running back DeAnthony Thomas, a longtime USC commit, fumbled on back-to-back touches in the third quarter, which changed the score of the game from 16-13 LSU to 30-13 LSU in a matter of minutes. The eventual final score was 40-27 LSU.

That was a weird day for the Ducks, Kiffin maintains -- and a bit of a fluke, looking back on it.

“They’re a very different team than they were on that day,” Kiffin said.

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First, first look: Oregon

July, 29, 2011
As the weeks count down until USC football fall camp begins on Aug. 4, we've been offering up an early first look at the 12 scheduled opponents for the 2011 season, in chronological order. We began back in May with Minnesota, Utah and Syracuse, continued the next three weeks with Arizona State, Arizona, and Cal and added Notre Dame, Stanford, Colorado and Washington recently. We now present Oregon, who the Trojans will play on the road on Saturday, Nov. 19:

History: Oregon has won seven of the last 11 games played between the schools, a period of dominance unmatched in the Ducks' history against the Trojans.

All-time, USC still leads the series 37-18-2. This is a matchup of, at this point, teams on opposite trajectories. Oregon is on the way up; USC is on the way down. Look at the last two head-to-head matchups -- Oregon 47, USC 20 and Oregon 53, USC 32 -- for evidence of that.

Of course, a game like this can help reverse things.

An interesting note about the schools' recent histories: Of the last seven Oregon-USC games, only one has been decided by 10 points or fewer -- and none by less than a touchdown. Five of the last six have also been won by the better-ranked team entering into the game.

Offense: Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are the stars, at quarterback and running back, respectively.

Thomas, a redshirt junior who played his first year and sat out his second, is a true talent who had a very, very good season as a first-year starter in 2010. Coach Chip Kelly didn't ask him to do too much, and he didn't try to. His touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio was a healthy 30-to-9, and he was 17th nationally in passing efficiency. There's also, of course, his running ability -- he carried the ball 93 times for 486 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Oregon's running back corps is probably the best in the nation. James, also a redshirt junior, was a unanimous first-team All-American last season with more than 1700 yards rushing. Then there's Kenjon Barner, a dynamite returner who quietly accumulated 551 yards on the ground as a backup last year. The Ducks also add redshirt freshman Lache Seastrunk and true freshman DeAnthony Thomas into the mix, both five-star prospects out of high school who USC recruited heavily.

Oh, and then there's senior tight end David Paulson, an all-conference first-team pick. He was the Ducks' representative at Pac-12 media day last week.

But, hey, their two top receivers and three starting offensive linemen are gone, so it's not all a nightmare. Oregon will need production from junior college transfer receivers Lavasier Tuinei and Rahsaan Vaughn, plus sophomore Josh Huff, who had a 57-yard catch against the Trojans last season.

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USC-Oregon grades

October, 30, 2010

A fairly good game for Matt Barkley, but nowhere near the dynamic performances he had put up the last few weeks. His big miss was an underthrow of an open Ronald Johnson that resulted in a pick near the end of the first half.


Marc Tyler was the guy for the Trojans on Saturday, but he just couldn't get anything going. USC attempted to establish the run game early, but an average of fewer than three yards a carry -- on more than 30 carries, no less -- didn't cut it.


Two consecutive impressive performances performances from the defensive line, as Wes Horton really made a difference with the Trojans' run-stopping efforts. But the up-and-down offensive line played down this time, failing to protect Barkley and not creating substantial holes for Tyler and co.


It sounds odd to say this wasn't a downright horrible performance, but it really wasn't. Oregon is Oregon. USC did limit the Ducks at times, although Darron Thomas' frequent success through the air was a bit surprising. LaMichael James was limited until late.


Johnson had two helpful punt returns, including one that directly led to a touchdown, but the Trojans gave up the needed advantage gained there when they allowed a 41-yard return to Oregon's Cliff Harris at the end of the first half.


Lane Kiffin's play-calling was way too conservative in the first half. Give him credit, though: USC went for it a lot more after the break, and it often paid off. And, despite the loss, Kiffin clearly had the Trojans motivated Saturday.



C. Kessler373260313330
J. Allen23112445.49
J. Davis1064694.43
N. Agholor85110313.010
J. Smith4661013.35