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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Saturday, December 31, 2005

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Thus far, SMQ has extolled the virtues of USC's "indefensible" offense, which offers too much firepower at every position for any defense to slow down; none has yet come close.

So the Trojans should be able to score running or passing - Texas will just have to keep up. Over the next two installments, SMQ analyzes whether the 'Horns match up well enough with USC's defense to put up their usual gaudy numbers.
Friday: When USC Has the Ball: Rushing Offense vs. Texas' Front Seven
Advantage: USC

Sunday: When USC Has the Ball: Passing Offense vs. Texas' Secondary and Pass Rush
Advantage: USC

Monday: When Texas Has the Ball: Passing Offense vs. USC's Secondary and Pass Rush
Tuesday: Special Teams: The kicking game, return game and intagibles
Wednesday: Game day thoughts and predictions

TODAY: When Texas Has the Ball: Rushing Offense vs. USC's Front Seven
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For all USC's backfield talent, Texas rolls into Pasadena with five serious rushing options - Jamaal Charles, Selvin Young, Henry Melton, Ramonce Taylor and leading rusher Vince Young - all of whom would could be a 1,000-yard stud if he wasn't forced to share the rock with the surrounding talent. It doesn't hurt that the offensive line ranks with the nation's best road-grader units, either.

Some numbers: the 'Horns averaged almost 5.8 yards per carry, close to the magic six-yard mark reached only by its upcoming opponent, and scored a national best 50 rushing touchdowns - more than four per game. Only two teams - top-ranked rushing defense Ohio State and ninth-ranked Colorado - held UT under 200 yards on the ground, and UT rolled up more than 300 five times.
Texas Rushing vs. Top 40 Rushing Defenses
vs. Ohio State (#1): 38 carries, 112 yards (2.9 per rush), 0 TD
vs. Oklahoma (#5): 40 carries, 203 yards (5.1 per rush), 2 TD
vs. Colorado (#9): 47 carries, 145 yards (3.1 per rush), 4 TD
vs. Kansas (#3): 53 carries, 336 yards (6.3 per rush), 4 TD
vs. Colorado (#9): 57 carries, 268 yards (4.7 per rush), 6 TD
Um, pretty hard to argue with that.

USC, meanwhile, has built its defensive rep on big, run-stuffing units, like the one that topped the nation in yards per game last year and swallowed up Adrian Peterson in the Orange Bowl. This season: still good, but not that good. Not Ohio State good, at least, which has been the only level of play high enough yet to achieve anything resembling success against Texas' bevy of backs.
USC Rush Defense Against Top 40 Rush Offenses
vs. Arkansas (#13): 52 carries, 197 yards (3.8 per rush), 0 TD
vs. Washington State (#16): 33 carries, 195 yards (5.9 per rush), 2 TD
vs. California (#9): 31 carries, 167 yards (5.4 per rush), 4 TD
Decidedly less impressive.

There's no way to gauge the Vince Young factor here, since SC hasn't played a remotely athletic, scrambling style quarterback yet this season, nor has it faced the misdirecting spread option scheme so en vogue in the Midwest. Conventional wisdom says the Trojans' serious speed is enough to chase VY down many yards sooner than most teams could get to him, but then, there is nothing conventional about Vince Young, one of the few opponents with any chance to out-athlete USC. Even the speedy Trojans will have to heed proper pursit angles, outside contain and responsibility football (i.e., gap/lane fills, don't bite down or overpursue on option fakes) to slow down this horse.

Advantage: TEXAS
If there's one weakness in the Texas rushing game, it's the lack of a Ricky Williams/Cedric Benson type workhorse who can carry the load every play. With this offensive line, though, who needs that? The 'Horns have speed (Taylor and Vince Young), power (Melton and Selvin Young) and everything in between (Charles). They also have a scheme that's ideal for exploiting fast, aggressive defenses, which are more likely to overpursue and allow room for well-executed misdirection runs, which is Vince Young's bread and butter. If that fails, the massive line (average weight: 313.8 lbs.) can just push the smaller Trojan line around.

Next: What if Vince Young has to throw?
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8:16 PM

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