Ducks being fueled by defense

Avery Patterson and Oregon's defense have been dominant in 2012. Scott Olmos/US Presswire

With the Oregon Ducks playing at the USC Trojans on Saturday, one of the game's major storylines is whether the Trojans' defense -- a week after allowing 618 yards and 39 points to Arizona's spread, no-huddle attack -- can possibly stop the spread, no-huddle attack of the Ducks.

It's a good question, considering the explosiveness of the Oregon offense, which has averaged 562 yards and 45 points per game against USC in the three meetings since Chip Kelly became the Ducks' head coach.

There's another storyline, however, that will be equally important to the outcome of this game but probably won't be discussed nearly as much. That's the question of whether Matt Barkley, Marqise Lee and the USC offense will be able to have much success against the Oregon defense.

Last season, the Trojans upset the Ducks 38-35 in Eugene. Barkley threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns and Lee caught eight passes for 187 yards. And although it's probably accurate to say that Oregon still doesn't have anyone who can blanket Lee in coverage (although cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell have both played well so far this season), it's also accurate to say that USC will see a very different defense from the Ducks this year.

Oregon is a much better defensive team than it was in 2011. In the FBS rankings for yards per game allowed, the Ducks have improved from 67th last season to 35th this season. And in points per game allowed, they've jumped from 52nd to 24th.

But those numbers still don't tell the story. Dig in a little deeper and you'll see why the Ducks have one of the best defenses in all of college football, and that their D deserves as much credit for their success this season as Oregon's offense.