Analysis Of The National Championship
As many of you know, this year in order to conserve my energy, I have had to limit the number of selections and in many cases the length of my supporting write-ups in order to help me make it through the long football season. That being said, with tonight's game being for the National Championship and affectively the last college game of the year excluding the still to be played various all star games, I wanted to share with you my complete analysis of the game. Hopefully, it will provide you with some insights and information on the game that may assist you in making an informed decision. So let's begin.
USC' offense comes into the game led by Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinhart who averaged 249 yards per game on 67% completions with a 28-6 touchdown to interception ratio. The Trojans running game is led by LenDale White who has been suffering from an ankle sprain, but is nearly 100%. He rushed for 985 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry and had 15 touchdowns. The Trojans also have Heisman Trophy finalist Reggie Bush, the NCAA's leader in all purpose yards, totalling 2181. He rushed for 833 yards with an average of 6.1 yards per carry and added 478 yards receiving with and average of 11.7 yards per catch and accounted for 16 touchdowns, rushing, passing, receiving and and on punt returns. The wide receiving corp consists of Steve Smith with 35 receptions with an average of 15.6 yards per reception, Dwayne Jarrett with 50 receptions with an average of 14.7 yards per reception with 12 touchdowns, and tight ends Dominique Byrd and Alex Holmes who combined for 58 receptions with an average of 9.8 yards per reception. The offensive line averages an overall size of 6-4 and 317 pounds and are led by returning LG John Drake who weighs 350 pounds and RT Taitusi Lutui who weighs 370 pounds. This is the largest offensive line in USC history. They opened holes for the running game to the tune of 4.5 yards per carry and allowed 24 sacks, which was 6.1% of the time.
The USC offense will face an Oklahoma defense that allowed just 2.8 yards per carry with 38 sacks. The defense is led by LB Lance Mitchell and top CB Antonio Perkins and redshirt freshman Marcus Walker as well as FS Brodney Pool and SS Donte Nicholson. The secondary allowed 194 yards per game on 55% completions and a 10-8 touchdown to interception ratio, however after Perkins returned from injury and Walker was put in the starting line-up, the secondary allowed only 84 yards per game on 49% completions with a 0-2 touchdown to interception ratio.
Oklahoma's offense is led by last year's Heisman Trophy winner Jason White who averaged 247 yards per game on 65% completions with a 33-6 touchdown to interception ratio. The Sooners running game is led by Heisman Trophy finalist Adrian Peterson who rushed for 1,843 yards with an average of 5.9 yards per carry despite splitting time early in the year with Kejuan Jones who rushed for 504 yards with an average of 4.0 yards per carry. The wide receiving corp is led by Mark Clayton with 62 receptions with an average of 13.8 yards per reception and 8 touchdowns, Travis Wilson with 43 receptions with an average of 14.0 yards per reception and 9 touchdowns, and Mark Bradley with 21 receptions with an average of 20.2 yards per reception and 7 touchdowns. The offensive line is led by Outland OT Jammal Brown and Rimington finalist C Vince Carter. They allowed Jason White to be sacked only 7 times all year.
The Oklahoma offense will face a USC defense that is led by DT Shaun Cody, NT Mike Patterson, and DT Manual Wright who returns. MLB Lofa Tatupu is also key to the Trojans quick defense. The secondary is led by SS Darnell Bing, FS Jason Leach, and cornerbacks Justin Wyatt, Kevin Arbet, and Eric Wright. The defense allowed just 75 yards per game rushing and 196 yards per game passing on 53% completions and 11-19 touchdown to interception ratio.
USC special teams are led by Reggie Bush averaging 26.4 yards per carry on kick-off returns and 16.0 yards per carry on punt returns. Punter Tom Malone is excellent averaging 43.8 yards per punt and a net of 42.4 yards with 17 kicks placed inside the 20 yard line but did have 2 punts blocked. Place Kicker Ryan Killeen has struggled hitting only 14-23 and 4-9 beyond 40 yards with a long of 42 yards but did hit 5-5 in the final game. The coverage units allowed 21.4 yards per carry on kick-off returns and 9.5 yards per carry on punt returns.
Oklahoma special teams are led by punt returner Antonio Perkins who averaged 9.2 yards per carry, but did tie the NCAA career record with 8 punt returns for touchdowns but missed most of the season due to injury. Kick returner Mark Bradley averaged 18.4 yards per carry. Punter Blake Ferguson averaged 41.8 yards per punt and a net of 39.1 yards. but dropped 2 snaps which led to opponent touchdowns. Place kicker Trey DiCarlo struggled so badly hitting 8-16 with a long of 35 yards, he was replaced in the 11th game of the season by true frosh Garrett Hartley who hasn't attempted a field goal but was 10-10 on PAT's. The coverage units allowed just 15.7 yards per carry on kick-offs and 4.2 yards per carry on punt returns.
The USC coaching staff is led by Pete Carroll who handles the defense and Norm Chow who calls the offensive plays. The Oklahoma coaching staff is led by Bob Stoops and defensive coordinator Bo Pelini who served as Carroll's assistant for 5 years in the NFL. Also of note, is the fact that former defensive coordinator for Oklahoma Mike Stoops is now head coach for Arizona and no doubt will assist his brother with any information he can share on film regarding the Trojans.
To me, there are a number of keys to the game and I'll put them in the form of questions requiring an answer.
1. Can the USC defense stop Adrian Peterson from successfully rushing for yardage? If not, the affectiveness of Jason White to connect with his receivers will be greatly improved.
2. Can a slightly less then 100% LenDale White gain ground consistently enough against the Oklahoma defense? If not, Matt Leinhart's ability to search the field for his receivers as well as Reggie Bush will be somewhat diminished.
3. Can Jason White be successful throwing against a USC secondary that sees passing attacks equal to or better then the Sooners present almost on a weekly basis in the Pac10? If not, the success of the Sooner offense will be greatly limited.
4. Can Matt Leinhart have success against a secondary that clearly is significantly improved with the return of Antonio Perkins and the addition of Marcus Walker, If not, the Trojans will be in deep trouble as they cannot rely on simply rushing to win this game.
5. Can the Oklahoma special teams units stop the returns of Reggie Bush plus win the battle of the kickers? If not, USC may gain field position thereby shortening the drives necessary.
6. Will Coach Carroll decide to bring up his defense in the box to try and stop Adrian Peterson and force Jason White to beat the Trojans through the air?
If not, the Trojans may find it very difficult to stop Peterson and then a balanced passing attack.
Last, in looking at the schedules for both teams in key match-ups, there are some questionable performances by both teams. For USC, most troubling was an early season game at Stanford winning 31-28 and the last game against UCLA winning 29-24. The game against Cal, the Trojans were clearly outplayed but by a Cal team that had most of it's wide receivers and was playing at a very high level and nothing like the team that finished the season against SMU or in the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech. The Trojans at times can start very slowly but have been good enough to overcome those lapses with stout defensive second halfs and an offense to make up the difference. As for Oklahoma, the road performances against Oklahoma State winning 38-35 followed by the win over Texas A&M 42-35 are very troubling as both these teams got clobbered in their respective bowl games. And finishing the season with the return of Perkins by beating Nebraska 30-3, Baylor 35-0, and Colorado 42-3 really doesn't say much as those teams were very weak.
I have looked at this game in as many ways as I know how and, quite frankly, although this is for the National Championship, a play for me is not warranted. When a thread was started in the Offshore Forum asking what the line for this game might be after USC beat Notre Dame 41-10 and Oklahoma beat Baylor 35-0, my response was USC -4 and a total of 52. Much has happened since that time, namely USC barely beating UCLA and Oklahoma smashing a weak Colorado team in the Big 12 Championship. At this time, I believe the correct line should be Even and the Total still 52. I was looking to see if the total would rise above the 54 opening and possibly take the Under, but it has moved down thus removing the play. As for the side, as expected money has been pouring in on Oklahoma taking them off from a 3 point dog to the current favorite. Once again, value lost if you liked the Sooners. Value gained if you like the Trojans. Either way, currently close to what I feel is a correct number. Thus, I will simply enjoy the game tonight, while looking at the first half and seeing if anything presents itself for the second half.
Truly hope that this thread has provided information of value to each of you and the best of luck tonight with you play(s). On paper, the game promises to be excellent. But, that is why they play the game on the field. Hopefully, it will live up to the hype.