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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday, January 01, 2006

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Thus far, the trend has been clear: the offense has it. SMQ has deciphered that USC has the advantage when it has the ball whether it's rushing or passing, and Texas should be able to control the ground game when it has the ball. But both offenses rank in the top five nationally in those categories; today SMQ looks at a different question: what if the Longhorns, 42nd in passing offense, have to throw?

Friday: When USC Has the Ball: Rushing Offense vs. Texas' Front Seven
Advantage: USC

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

Sunday: When Texas Has the Ball: Rushing Offense vs. USC's Front Seven
Advantage: TEXAS

Tuesday: Special Teams: The kicking game, return game and intagibles
Wednesday: Game day thoughts and predictions

TODAY: When Texas Has the Ball: Passing Offense vs. USC's Secondary and Pass Rush
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Most of the attention Vince Young gets is for his running ability, which is understandable. That part of his game is unique for a quarterback and frequently spectacular.

But there are quite a few superlatives among VY's passing numbers, too. He ranks second nationally, behind Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter, in total passing efficiency and yards per attempt and leads the nation in touchdown percentage. His leading receiver, Billy Pittman, averages more than 23 yards per catch, Limas Sweed averages 17 yards and Quan Cosby averages nineteen. Six different receivers have at least two touchdown catches, and three have five. For a run-first, misdirection and power rushing offense, Texas throws a pretty good bit, and it strikes big when it does.
Texas Passing Offense Against Top 40 Pass Efficency Defenses
vs. Ohio State (#31): 18 of 29, 270 yards (9.3 per attempt), 2 TD, 2 INT
vs. Oklahoma (#24): 14 of 27, 241 yards (8.9 per attempt), 3 TD, 0 INT
vs. Texas Tech (#11): 12 of 22, 239 yards (10.9 per attempt), 2 TD, 2 INT
vs. Baylor (#14): 16 of 27, 298 yards (11.1 per attempt), 2 TD, 0 INT
Young's numbers have been remarkably consistent; except for a halfhearted effort against Rice (only 14 attempts, for barely 100 yards) and a monster game against Colorado (336 yards on 29 attempts), the line of every game reads somewhere along the lines of 15 of 24, 230 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception.

The chink in Young's passing armor is his interception rate; he served up 10 picks in 285 passes. Not awful, but the margin of error window closes considerably Wednesday night.

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Don't call him one-dimensional.

USC is not what anyone would call a dominant pass defense - that may be an oxymoron in the PAC Ten - but it does excel in one area that Texas does not: forcing turnovers. The Trojans' interception rate is 5.34, fifth in the nation, including five at Arizona State, four against Fresno State and three vs. Stanford. USC intercepted at least one pass, usually more, in nine games. And we're not talking nine nobodies:
USC Pass Defense Against Top 40 Passing Offenses
vs. Hawaii (#2): 33 of 49, 377 yards (7.7 per attempt), 1 TD, 2 INT
vs. Oregon (#8): 21 of 37, 197 yards (5.3 per attempt), 1 TD, 1 INT
vs. Arizona State (#3): 26 of 45, 347 yards (7.7 per attempt), 2 TD, 5 INT
vs. Notre Dame (#4): 19 of 35, 264 yards (7.5 per attempt), 1 TD, 1 INT
vs. Washington State (#20): 13 of 25, 89 yards (3.6 per attempt), 0 TD, 0 INT
vs. Fresno State (#25): 27 of 45, 317 yards (7.1 per attempt), 4 TD, 4 INT
vs. UCLA (#23): 14 of 32, 146 yards (4.6 per attempt), 1 TD, 0 INT
Obviously, if there's one thing USC is familiar with, it's facing a top-flight passing attack, usually in frantic comeback mode, and usually with quite a bit of success: only Fresno State met its season average in yardage against the Trojans. None came close to its per throw average.

Advantage: USC
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This is a close call. Texas always has the option to come out throwing to catch everyone off guard, but the best way to ensure a successful passing game is by first ensuring a successful run game; UT is not in good position to fall behind. The one scenario Vince Young hasn't been in is must-throw comeback mode, when the play-action and option looks hold much less sway over the defense. If he's going to look like the nation's pass efficiency leader, Young will need the luxury of a run game to divert attention and set up certain routes. Otherwise, he'll be throwing into the teeth of a unit that thrives on his major shortcoming: interceptions. Athletically, Texas' wide outs have not given any reason to make SMQ think they'll give Justin Wyatt and Darnell Bing any problems.

Up next: Special teams! Who takes the prize in the hidden game?
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8:37 PM

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