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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Oregon vs South Florida Preview


Original Story posted at Rivals.com

Oregon and South Florida both had their sights set on a national championship this season, but the stakes won't be nearly that high when they square off in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas tomorrow.

Both teams reached No. 2 in the rankings, but Oregon has since dropped out of the Top 25 while South Florida fell to 23rd. The Ducks (8-4) and the Bulls (9-3) were two of six No. 2 teams to lose in a topsy-turvy college football season.

**How the "experts" see it:**

Oregon run offense vs. USF run defense:
EDGE: Oregon
Jonathan Stewart leads the Pac-10 and ranks 10th in the nation with 1,469 rushing yards. Stewart has exceeded the 100-yard plateau eight times this season. USF can focus on stopping Stewart because of Oregon's suspect passing attack. Then again, Stewart might be good enough to withstand those obstacles.

Oregon pass offense vs. USF pass defense:
EDGE: USF
Oregon had one of the nation's most high-powered offenses before Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon suffered a season-ending knee injury. Brady Leaf struggled in Dixon's absence before also going down with an ankle injury. The Ducks now must rely on either Justin Roper or Cody Kempt, who have combined to go 21 of 57 with four interceptions and two touchdown passes this season. Either quarterback will have to watch out for USF defensive end George Selvie, who leads the nation with 31.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and ranks second with 14.5 sacks. The Bulls also have an excellent cornerback duo in Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.

USF run offense vs. Oregon run defense
EDGE: USF
USF's rushing attack was seen as a major concern before the season, but the Bulls rank second in the Big East and 28th in the nation with 193 rushing yards per game. QB Matt Grothe leads the team with 832 rushing yards, but Mike Ford has come on strong with 337 yards in his past three games. Oregon is allowing 136.5 rushing yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. If the Ducks can find a way to stymie USF's rushing attack, they can win this game.

USF pass offense vs. Oregon pass defense
EDGE: Oregon
Grothe remains a work in progress as a passer. Although he has thrown for 2,473 yards, Grothe also has been picked off 12 times. He threw seven interceptions during USF's three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. Grothe could have a hard time against a talented Oregon secondary that features All-America strong safety Patrick Chung. Oregon has 35 sacks, and USF has allowed 25 sacks.

Oregon special teams vs. USF special teams
EDGE: Oregon
Oregon's Matt Evensen is 14 of 18 on field-goal attempts, while Josh Syria averages 41.4 yards per punt. USF's Delbert Alvarado is 17 of 27 on field-goal attempts and averages 41.3 yards per punt. Stewart is a good kick returner for Oregon, but the Ducks' coverage units and punt-return group are just average. Despite having a lot of good athletes, USF's return units are nothing special. The punt-coverage unit has been good, the kick-coverage unit just so-so.

Oregon coaching staff vs. USF coaching staff
EDGE: USF
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly were candidates for national honors six weeks ago, but the Ducks haven't won and have failed to move the ball consistently since Dixon went down. USF also suffered a three-game losing streak this season, but Bulls coach Jim Leavitt did a much better job of fixing his team's problems - albeit without facing the injury problems Oregon experienced.

Oregon will win if:
The Ducks need a big game from Stewart to take the pressure off their quarterbacks. And they can't afford any major mistakes from the QB spot.

South Florida will win if:
If USF's defense fares well enough on first and second down to force Oregon into obvious passing situations, the Bulls shouldn't have much of a problem winning.

X-factor
Ford wasn't the only freshman offensive player for USF who came on strong late in the season. WR Carlton Mitchell caught 22 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulls' past four games. He has a team-high 37 catches and 537 receiving yards this year.
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Oregon is a 6.5 point underdog. Personally, I think the key to the game is defense. If the Ducks can force turnovers, pressure their QB and stop the big gainers we will come out on top. As always, this is easier said than done. I think Bellotti feels the pressure of last years Bowl game blowout and has prepared the team for South Florida.

Game time is 11:00 AM local time and will be broadcast on CBS.

Oregon 23 - South Florida 21

GO DUCKS!

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