Tag:College Football Pregame
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Keys to the game: USC at Oregon

Posted by Bryan Fischer

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Trojans have retooled on defense with faster linebackers and are better equipped to handle the Ducks speed than they have been in previous years. Creating stops are as important as containing big plays and getting the ball back to an offense that has more weapons than anybody Oregon has seen all years. The emergence of Curtis McNeal and Marc Tyler have given a nice boost to the running game and they'll need to continue to have Robert Woods and Marqise Lee making big plays if USC wants to pull off the upset.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The game plan is always the same for the Ducks, apply pressure by scoring quickly on offense and apply pressure - more literally - on defense by being aggressive with the front seven. Chip Kelly was very aggressive against Stanford and we'll see if he continues to keep that up against a team that has a lot more athletes that can create big plays on both sides of the ball. Oregon is in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl and could even be playing for a rematch in the BCS title game so don't be surprised if they want some style points on national television and for Heisman Trophy candidiate LaMichael James.

X-FACTOR: Matt Barkley turnovers. USC has been in games with Oregon for a half but, like most of the Ducks opponents, have fallen apart in the second half. If Matt Barkley continues to be efficient in the passing game and spreads the ball around to his receivers, the Trojans have a chance. If he turns the ball over once or twice though, it will be hard to see an upset. The margin is just that thin for this team but no doubt they have the talent to get a win if Barkley plays well.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:20 am
 

Keys to the game: Cal at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

CALIFORNIA WILL WIN IF: The Golden Bears now have a blueprint to beat Stanford even if they don't have the offense or the athletes that Oregon does. The Cardinal is still banged up so putting pressure on Andrew Luck while keeping his receivers from getting separation will be key. Cal has struggled on the road this season (1-3) and even though it's a trip across the Bay, they'll be headed into a hostile environment if last week was any indication.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal have the superior team once again this year but will have to quickly regroup after a tough loss last week. The defense has to do a better job of shutting down the run, a phase of the game Cal has really gotten going over the past few games. Stanford used Stepfan Taylor early and often against Oregon last week but had to go away from him in order to play catch up. If they're the ones dictating tempo and wearing down the Bears defense, Andrew Luck should be able to return to form and pick apart the young secondary on the way to another Big Game victory.

X-FACTOR: Zach Maynard. The Bears quarterback has to play within the offense and take what the defense gives him. If he's forcing throws and turning the ball over, it could be a long day for Cal. The only way the Bears win is if Maynard plays his best game of the season and allows Marvin Jones, Keenan Allen and Isi Sofele to make some plays in space. He won't be able to top Luck and needs plenty of help from his defense but the only way Cal has a chance to stay close or pull the upset is if their quarterback far exceeds how he's been playing.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:03 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will have to use their biggest advantage on both sides of the ball, speed, over the much more physical Cardinal team if they're going to come out of Palo Alto with a victory. The offense is close to being healthy with LaMichael James looking like his old self against Washington last week despite a bulky pad over his injured elbow. Unlike some teams, Oregon can run effectively between the tackles and then bounce it outside but only if the offensive line does a good job with the Stanford front four. It will be a test for the secondary against Andrew Luck and his big targets at tight end but something defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti adjusted to last year.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal are a bit banged up but will receive a big boost with the return of starting safety Delano Howell, who will be key in providing support against both the passing and the running game. Oregon is 62nd in the country in total defense and Stanford should be able to move the ball effectively with running back Stepfan Taylor and the best player in college football in Luck. This game looks like it will turn into an old Pac-10 shootout so getting a key defensive stop or making a big play in special teams will likely be a determining factor in Stanford picking up a win. 

X-FACTOR: Battle in the trenches. Against Washington last week, Oregon's front seven did a great job of blitzing and getting penetration to shut down running lanes and pressure the quarterback. They'll face a stiffer test this week against one of the best offensive lines in college football, which has given up the fewest sacks in the country. On the other side, if Stanford's defensive line can make quarterback Darron Thomas uncomfortable, they could force him into making mistakes.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:39 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Washington

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks offense has struggled to be consistent and it appears there's a minor quarterback controversy after Darron Thomas was pulled in the second half for backup quarterback Bryan Bennett. LaMichael James is back and Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas have done a great job running the football but Oregon has to get the passing game back on track with Thomas under center. This is likely the Ducks' stiffest test on defense all season but they're going to need the offense in its usual high-scoring mode to win.

WASHINGTON WILL WIN IF: The defense has to make play plays and force a few turnovers. There's no if's, and's or but's about this game, the defense will need to take a major step forward if the Huskies want to win this game. The offense has been great so far this year but the team has been in too many shootouts - a type of game they'll lose against Oregon. Chris Polk will need another monster game and will need to help control the clock and keep it out of the hands of the Oregon offense. This is a big game for Steve Sarkisian but it's an even bigger game for defensive coordinator Nick Holt.

X-FACTOR: Washington is bowl eligible for the second season in a row and the rivalry against Oregon is an underrated one nationally. That should create an electric crowd at Husky Stadium, one of the loudest venues in the Pac-12. If they can capitalize on the home field advantage and force Oregon in to some mistakes early, there's no doubt that Washington has a chance in this one.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 1:11 pm
 

Keys to the game: Stanford at Oregon State

Posted by Bryan Fischer

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: On paper, this looks like a total mismatch but many highly ranked teams have gone into Reser Stadium on a cold afternoon and gone home with a loss - that's why they play the games after all. Andrew Luck has a chance to continue his march to winning a Heisman Trophy this week but will have to adjust to the loss of tight end Zach Ertz. This will be a good game to re-establish the run and work on a few things defensively as they prepare for Oregon in two weeks. Still, David Shaw will have to get his team excited about playing this game after last week's thrilling win at the Coliseum.

OREGON STATE WILL WIN IF: Stanford has the 81st ranked pass defense and the Beavers love to throw the ball with freshman quarterback Sean Mannion. If they can create some turnovers, run the ball effectively and play decent defense, there's a chance. It's a very, very small chance against Stanford but stranger things have happened. They have a great coach in Mike Riley and are looking to begin November with a big home win.

X-FACTOR: Stanford let down. As Luck was running to the locker room after beating USC last week, he pumped his fists in the air and couldn't get the smile off his face. It was a similar story for much of the Cardinal football team. It's one thing getting excited about a top 20 opponent, it's another getting up for a team that is 2-6 on the season. Stanford blanked Oregon State 38-0 last year but have just a 3-7 record against the Beavers since 2000 so there's hasn't been a whole lot of success on the side of the Bay Area team in this series. If there's a slow start by the offense and the defense allows a big play, there could be a chance at an upset.

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Army at Air Force

Posted by Chip Patterson

AIR FORCE WILL WIN IF: Air Force was able to bounce back from a three-game losing streak to finally notch their first conference win against New Mexico. The Falcons will be looking to capture their second-straight Commander-in-Chief's trophy with a victory over their rivals from West Point. Having defeated Navy in a 35-34 overtime thriller earlier in the season, their sixth-straight victory over Army would seal the 18th outright win in the annual battle between the service academies. The Falcons will need their patented option-rushing attack to help build a big lead early, as neither team has an offense that has shown the ability to mount a fast comeback. With starting quarterback Tim Jefferson's status still unknown, I expect senior running back Asher Clark to step up with an increased workload and production in the rivalry game. If the Falcons run their offense and avoid turnovers, they should emerge victorious again in their first home game since Oct. 13.

ARMY WILL WIN IF: Statistically Army's rushing attack puts up slightly better numbers than Air Force (Army leads the nation with 369.0 yards per game, Air Force is third with 326.88), but the Black Knights will find opportunity for victory if they can force the Falcons to turn the ball over. Air Force turned the ball over 8 times during their three-game slide in October, and it has been the one weakness to the Falcons' offensive attack all season. Army's secondary might find that opportunity through the air, where Air Force quarterbacks have thrown at least one interception in any game where more than 15 passes are attempted.

X-FACTOR: Health of Air Force starting quarterback Tim Jefferson. Jefferson left the Falcon's 42-0 victory over New Mexico with a reported injury to his nose. He was back on the practice field on Monday, but head coach Troy Calhoun did not offer any official comment on his status for Army. The good news for the Falcons was his backup, sophomore Conner Deitz, played exceptionally in his absence. Deitz entered the game and finished as the team's leading rusher with 87 yards on six carries - including a 39 yard touchdown rush to put Air Force up 35-0 before halftime.

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