Plenty to work on

If USC wants to meet and beat Oregon in the Pac-12 title game, it needs to improve

Updated: November 4, 2012, 6:47 PM ET
By Garry Paskwietz | WeAreSC

Barkley-MariotaStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesUntil we meet again? Matt Barkley certainly hopes to see Marcus Mariota and Oregon one more time in the Pac-12 title game.
LOS ANGELES -- It wasn't long after USC's 62-51 loss against Oregon for the talk to turn to the possibility of a rematch in the Pac-12 title game.

In the Trojans' postgame locker room, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee said, "I want to play them again so bad. I'd play them right now if I could."

That kind of talk is understandable after an entertaining game that featured dynamic offensive performances. A rematch could be in store if the Trojans can navigate conference games against ASU and UCLA, both of whcih are chasing postseason dreams of their own.

Without looking past those games against the Sun Devils and Bruins, there were several lessons learned from Saturday's game that could be applied to another potential meeting between the two teams. This time, with USC fans hoping for a different result.

Even more Lee: He set a Pac-12 record for kickoff return yardage and added 157 receiving yards, but he wasn't satisfied. And to be honest, he is a rare talent who is capable of carrying an added load. If more Lee is needed to beat the Ducks, give them more Lee.

Work on shedding blocks: This was a major issue for the Trojans' defense, and it's something that could also come into play against USC's remaining opponents which also run variations of the spread. If the Trojans get another shot at Oregon, it will be imperative to see improvement in this area.

Take advantage of opportunities: There is no better example of this than Lamar Dawson. The Trojans sophomore middle linebacker led the team with 11 tackles, but he will likely be remembered for two plays in the game -- a missed interception where the Ducks scored on the ensuing play and then a missed tackle on Kenjon Barner, which resulted in a touchdown run. The margin for error against Oregon is slim enough without missing those key opportunities.

Trust the run: USC was running the ball early, particularly with Silas Redd gaining nice chunks of yardage. But once the Trojans fell behind 14-3, it seemed like they went away from the run. They came back to it later, and both Redd and Curtis McNeal had some nice gains. The Trojans averaged five yards per rush -- which is in line with their season average -- but they only had 26 attempts. If USC can run the ball more, it will help keep the Oregon offense off the field, which can only be a good thing.

Evaluate in-game strategy decisions: There was a key point early in the fourth quarter when the Trojans punted on a 4th-and-6, and Oregon promptly took the ball and scored. Kiffin was asked about this after the game, and he said he expected at some point the Oregon offense would make a mistake. Well, the Ducks didn't, and it would be a good idea to prepare for that possibility again. Perhaps it makes sense to go for it in that situation. The Trojans also won the opening coin flip and deferred. Next time, take the ball and try to be first on the board. This could be another tight one where all those little decisions come into play.

Don't forget Nelson Agholor: The best way to attack the Ducks' speed is with speed of your own, and Agholor showed he's ready for this level of competition. It was an impressive breakout performance for the freshman with 162 receiving yards, including a 76-yard touchdown. If he can have an increased role in the next few games, he would be ready to go in a rematch.

Finish your business: If the Ducks and Trojans do meet in December with the Pac-12 title on the line, it would be a huge opportunity for both teams to finish on the right note. The Ducks would likely be looking at a trip to the BCS title game. The Trojans would have Pasadena and the Rose Bowl in their sights. If that opportunity presents itself, there could be no better time for Matt Barkley and his teammates to follow through on the mantra of unfinished business.

Garry Paskwietz | email

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