Wednesday, December 27, 2006

LIBERTY BOWL PREVIEW: USC DEFENSE vs. HOUSTON OFFENSE

There are many ways to look at a football game. One Gamecocks message board provides a contest whereby the (presumably male) fans of both teams post pictures of their school's respective, beautiful women in order to determine which university is superior.

Let me not discourage that. But here, we'll look at football indicators.

In the first of a few installments over the next couple of days, we now take a look at USC's defense vs. Houston's offense.

First, the quick facts on Houston's offense. Statistics found here.

SCORING -- 426 points
PPG -- 32.8
1ST DOWNS -- 284 (129 rushing, 147 passing, 8 by penalty)
RUSHING -- 2,221 yards (4.9-yard average per rush, 170.8 YPG, 27 TDs)
PASSING -- 3,497 yards (273-405, 27 TDs, 4 INTs, 269.0 YPG)
TOTAL -- 5,718 yards; 439.8 YPG
RED ZONE -- 48/54 scoring, 89 percent; 35/54 for TDs, 65 percent

Now, for USC's defense. Statistics found here.

OPPONENTS SCORING -- 207 points
PPG -- 17.2
1ST DOWNS --204 (95 rushing, 93 passing, 16 by penalty)
RUSHING -- 1,774 yards (4.1-yard average per rush, 147.8 YPG, 12 TDs)
PASSING -- 2,078 yards (143-273, 20 TDs, 13 INTs, 173.2 YPG)
TOTAL -- 3,852 yards; 321.o YPG
RED ZONE -- 22/31 scoring, 71 percent; 13/31 for TDs, 42 percent

Granted, the Cougars' numbers come against Conference USA competition. But Spurrier has spoken highly of their offense; that is not something he does lightly, nor is it something that can be ignored.

But USC's defense hasn't been shabby either, allowing just 17.2 points per game, for those of you who skipped the charts. That's actually more than they allowed to eventual NC contender Florida. Also, anyone who watched the defense knows that their Achilles heel is the run. Houston does well rushing the ball, but passing is their bread and butter. And why not? Kevin Kolb has thrown 27 TDs against just three picks (the other one belongs to someone else).

That said, the red zone numbers are troubling. An offense scoring 89 percent of the time going up against a defense allowing the other guys to score 71 percent of the time? That could be trouble.



Tyrone Nix thinks about the red zone possibilities.


It's tough to say how exactly a solid defense in the SEC will stack up against a stellar offense in Conference USA. But, one hopeful sign is Nix's 2-0 record against Briles and the Cougars.

SLIGHT EDGE to HOUSTON.

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