Cut down the penalties
It’s no secret USC is ranked dead last in college football in penalties per game and penalty yards per game. It’s now also no secret the Trojans have a hard time walking away from opponents after the whistle is blown.
“It’s not a street fight,” Coach Lane Kiffin said after practice this week. “It’s a game and there are rules within it.”
“(I’m) completely shocked that we're still having these conversations at this point in the year,” Kiffin continued. “Sometimes you have them the first couple weeks, with newer players or guys making mistakes. But to see the same ones repeated over and over is really disappointing and it cost us a game.”
Junior receiver Robert Woods said the Trojans have “too much pride” to sometimes walk away from situations when they feel provoked, in-turn earning them personal fouls.
But, enough is enough. After watching film this week of every penalty over the season, the Trojans seem to finally understand how much their undisciplined play and inability to walk away after the whistle has really cost them.
“I really think that both games we’ve lost, we’ve killed ourselves and we can’t play a game like that this week, Oregon is too good,” said quarterback Matt Barkley. “We have to be disciplined and play good football.”
Stop the run
Oregon may have lost running back LaMichael James to the NFL but their offense hasn’t hasn’t skipped a beat.
Insert Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas, not to mention mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota, and the Ducks are as dangerous as ever. Through eight games, Barner is almost at the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
Asked how Oregon’s offense is different due to the absence of James, Kiffin said “I don’t think there is any difference from the running back position,” noting Barner’s contributions. “(Last year) Kenjon hurt us more than LaMichael did and definitely more than De’Anthony did,” he continued. “Kenjon has done really well stepping in and taking those carries that LaMichael was getting.”
“We’ve got to stop the run, definitely,” said senior safety Jawanza Starling, “It will be key to winning the ballgame.”
It will also be key for the Trojans to “tackle in space,” Kiffin said. If not, the speedy Ducks will be long-gone.
Fire on all cylinders
Quarterback Matt Barkley and receiver Marqise Lee are coming off Pac-12 record performances against Arizona and will need to pickup where they left off against the Ducks, the team Kiffin calls the “best in the country.”
It’s not just the Duck’s offense that earns them that billing in the USC coach’s book, it’s also their defense, “I think it gets lost in the numbers,” Kiffin said.
“You start going average per play, which I think is the best stat to look at if you’re judging offense and defense because sometimes they can’t control how many plays they run, this is one of the better defenses in the country,” he said.
The Trojans will also have to hang onto the ball. After giving up five turnovers versus Arizona, they know the same errors against Oregon will be deadly. “You can’t get out of your schemes and what you are trying to do as an offense and we’ve just got to control the ball,” said Barkley. “I think, that’s the one thing we do have to focus on, is controlling the ball and eliminating turnovers and all of those penalties, to where we give Oregon the least amount of chances possible to score.”